Changes in Store for Black Hills Airport
November 12, 2014
  • Share
  • An airport is like any other business in that you need to invest time, as well as money, to make it grow. Usually that task falls to the airport sponsor, and sometimes a change of sponsor is in the best interest of the airport.

    That’s the situation at Black Hills-Clyde Ice Field (KSPF) in Spearfish, S.D.

    Currently, the airport sponsor is Lawrence County, but a plan is underway to have the city of Spearfish assume sponsorship, because, according to Dana Boke, the mayor of Spearfish, “The city has more time and resources to focus on the economic development of the airport.”

    According to Boke, over the past 40 years the city has grown approximately 2% per year, resulting in more businesses coming to the area and a corresponding increase in traffic on both roads and at the airport. Boke envisions the economic development could include bringing more aviation-centered businesses to the airport itself.

    “The airport is one of the most active general aviation facilities in the state,” says Joe Neeb, city administrator. “In the 2010 South Dakota Aviation System Plan, it was noted that the airport generates approximately $12.8 million in business sales per year.”

    Neeb pointed out that Lawrence County has done a good job as airport sponsor of the past 80 years and the airport has been well-maintained, however, “It was agreed by both governmental entities that having Spearfish take over the sponsorship would help prepare it for its next cycle of growth. The city can use its resources more efficiently to grow the airport.”

    The airport is located on 800 acres on the central westside of the Mount Rushmore State. It is named for Clyde Ice, a local aviator who, in the words of airport manager Ray Jilek, “Did just about everything you could with an airplane to make a buck. He barnstormed in Eagle Rock airplanes, flew a Ford Trimotor, did aerial spraying, you name it.”

    In addition to being airport manager, Jilek owns the airport’s FBO, Eagle Aviation. He has seen air traffic increase first-hand, noting, “When we opened at the airport in 2001 there were 32 airplanes on the field. Today there are 80.”

    Boke, Neeb and Jilek credit the increase in activity to the expansion of the oil industry in North Dakota, as well as Spearfish’s growing reputation as a nice place to live because of its outdoor recreation opportunities. One of the more famous events in the area is the annual motorcycle rally held in nearby Sturgis. The rally, which is held in early August, draws people from all over the world.

    “The ramp can fill up quickly,” says Jilek, “because not everyone arrives on a Harley.”

    The airport has a 6,401-foot asphalt runway, and two turf runways, one measuring 3,851 feet and the other 1,910 feet. Part of the planned development at the airport will be construction of a hard surface crosswind runway.

    “The crosswind hard-surfaced runway is important,” says Jilek. “We are located right on the northern edge of a mountain range. The mountains can have a dramatic effect on wind sometimes, and we can get a considerable crosswind that is beyond the capability of some aircraft.”

    The crosswind runway is still in the planning stages, as the project has not yet been approved by the FAA.

    “I am uncertain on the length, but it appears that it will be approximately 3,700 to 4,000 feet,” says Neeb. “While we have a preliminary site layout, the FAA is requesting a planning review prior to final layout. The plan for the crosswind runway will be submitted to the South Dakota Department of Transportation in December.”

    According to Neeb, the cost of the new runway is estimated to be about $7.5 million, with 90% of the money coming from the FAA, 5% from the state, and 5% from the airport sponsor.

    There is no timeline on when the change of sponsorship will take place, according to Neeb.

    “That is up to the FAA,” he says. “Both local governmental entities have passed resolutions outlining the change and how it would occur. Spearfish has provided the FAA with a draft template on what would be provided in the sponsorship change application. While it may take longer, it is expected that FAA approval will be received within the next six to 12 months.”