By Chuck Stinnett
February 8, 2011
The Henderson City-County Airport and its five-year-old terminal building are an underappreciated asset for the community, Henry Lackey, the deputy commissioner for the state Department of Aviation, said here Tuesday.
“If you had no dealing with the Henderson airport, you would have no idea how many planes come here to bring parts to industries or bring personnel in or take personnel out for meetings,” Lackey told the Henderson Lions Club.
The former Henderson mayor, who has been a private pilot for 35 years, called the five-year-old air terminal here “the finest general aviation airport facility in this state.”
That reflects well on the community when corporate visitors arrive here.
“When corporate America comes to your town, they don’t come by train, bus or boat,” Lackey said.
He credited former air board chairmen Dick Wham and the late Ray Preston for their efforts to get the terminal built.
Henderson may not have scheduled airline flights, but its 5,504-foot-long runway ensures that corporate jets can land here, he noted.
The airport here is one of Kentucky’s 52 general aviation airports — those that don’t handle military, scheduled airline or regular cargo flights.
But Lackey said the terminal here stands out. “We have more square feet for a general aviation airport by far in the state,” he said.
From 2000 through 2011, the airport here underwent $7.3 million in improvements, funded mostly by the Federal Aviation Administration but also with state and local governments and private donations, including from the Preston Foundation.
Meanwhile, Lackey said Ron Collins Aviation Electronics — which relocated from Evansville to the Henderson airport in 2007 — continues to benefit the community.
Its employees “are very, very highly paid technical people” who install and service aviation radios, GPS systems, radar and other avionics in aircraft, he said.
“You’d be amazed how many planes fly into Henderson” from as far away as Minnesota, Florida and the East Coast for at Ron Collins, Lackey said. Their pilots frequently spend a night or two at local hotels and purchase restaurant meals, helping the local economy, he said.
Lackey, a Henderson native who now resides in Frankfort, became deputy aviation commissioner in September 2010. Before that, he had been executive director of the state Office of Charitable Gaming since early 2008.