By Chris Engle
GAYLORD — A new equipment garage will soon rise up from the grounds of Gaylord Regional Airport, 1100 Aero Drive.
Meanwhile, a new charter business is moving in and a tractor is plowing and smoothing the 17-acre air show parking field.
Footings of the garage are taking shape near the airport’s west entrance on Van Tyle Road. Costing $343,000, the garage is 97 percent funded by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The other three percent — roughly $10,000 — will be paid by Otsego County.
The drive-through garage will house the airport’s snow-removal equipment, including snowplows, bucket loaders and a truck with a massive snowblower attachment.
According to airport manager Matt Barresi, the building’s strategic location will allow workers to “literally start the job” of clearing the airport’s taxiways and runway as they exit the garage.
Currently, snow-removal equipment is stored in a hangar against FAA regulations, which require hangars be used only for airplanes.
That hangar will soon be home to Complete Flight Services, a charter service relocating to Gaylord from Kalkaska.
Owner Randy Miller said the operation will focus on weekend trips to Mackinac Island and Beaver Island. His fleet consists of four- and six-seater, single-engine planes. He plans on ordering a twin-engine Cessna for larger groups.
Miller, a truck driver and 17-year veteran pilot, said he hopes to eventually offer flights to Canada for hunting and fishing trips.
“I’m going to cater to the community and give them what they ask for,” Miller said.
While the construction and relocation takes place, a tractor has been tilling and leveling the 17-acre field along Van Tyle Road that serves as parking during the Wings Over Gaylord air show.
Carter Moore, airfield maintenance foreman, also has an agricultural background and plans to sow the field with winter rye or oats to hold the soil in place over the winter. That crop will then be mowed prior to the 2013 air show.
After the event and early in the summer, the field will be worked up again and seeded with grass that can withstand the sandy soil and dry conditions at the airport.
Barresi said the work was spurred by critiques during the air show that the parking lot was rough to walk on.
“Our plan is that by the next air show, it will be flat, short grass and a nice walking surface,” Barresi said, noting all 17 acres were full of cars during this year’s event.