By Meg Mirshak
Several years of upgrades at Augusta Regional Airport have replaced a former military airfield with modern facilities.
More than $50 million has been invested in Augusta Regional since 2005, when construction began on a commercial airline terminal, said marketing director Diane Johnston. The massive investment includes rebuilding the main runway, expanding parking lots and constructing a general aviation terminal that officially opens today.
The 14,000-square foot general aviation terminal houses a pilot lounge and sleeping area, flight planning room, business center, two conference rooms and employee office space.
The original contract for the general aviation terminal was for $5.05 million. Several construction change orders have brought the project to 5 percent over budget.
General aviation is projected to be 32 percent of the airport’s revenue streams this year compared to 64 percent in 2007. Commercial airline revenue, however, has increased from 22 percent in 2007 to an expected 49 percent this year.
“The reality is even though our general aviation numbers are going down, we still have a significant amount of general aviation traffic,” Johnston said.
Augusta Regional Airport – called Bush Field until 2000 – was originally a World War II-era flight training airfield.
Until recent upgrades, Johnston said much of the airport’s infrastructure and facilities dated to the 1950s when the city of Augusta acquired the airfield. The main runway was rebuilt in 2011 for the first time in about a half-century, she said.
“We’d never had a terminal that was actually built as our commercial terminal,” she said. “We moved into a terminal that was just an old Army, military terminal.”
A master plan developed in 2000 was revised after passenger traffic numbers continued a steady decline. From 1992 to 2006, outbound traffic fell from about 250,000 departing passengers a year to fewer than 140,000. Since 2006, passenger traffic has nearly doubled to 272,000 passengers.
The current commercial terminal was part of the revised design, Johnston said.
Starting next year, the airport will begin developing a new master plan. Johnston said there are no plans to expand the commercial terminal which was built with room for future growth and still has space for other airlines.
The only project slated for the master plan is a 200-acre industrial park for aviation-related industries. A half-mile divided highway is being built from Doug Barnard Parkway to a vacant plot on the southeastern portion of the airport property using a special purpose local option sales tax allocation. Road construction is scheduled for completion April 1.
The industrial park, upcoming construction on airplane ramps and a study to develop the master plan will be an additional $15 million investment, Johnston said.