Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport is making room for more privately owned airplanes and commercial airline passengers through approximately $15.3 million worth of improvements begun in 2014 and scheduled for completion this year.
Airport executive director Mark Hanna said last week that a $1.3 million hangar renovation already begun will accommodate growth in demand for corporate and other privately owned aircraft.
Terminal work planned this year includes a second passenger boarding and departing bridge and expansion of the security area to speed passenger processing. The immediate focus, Hanna said, is expansion of aircraft storage space.
“People have a lot invested in their planes,” he said.
“We’ve really seen it in the last year or two,” Hanna said. “We’ve had a lot of inquiries from people about leases, building their own hangars. People are talking about upgrading their aircraft to larger aircraft.”
Between 150 and 160 privately owned aircraft are stored at the Springfield airport, including by major local corporate names such as technology firm Levi, Ray & Shoup and beverage-equipment manufacturing company Bunn-O-Matic.
Renovation of a 1960s-vintage hangar, Hanna said, will create two private spaces — typically used for corporate aircraft — as well as “community space” for smaller privately owned aircraft.
“There’s significant corporate travel out of Springfield,” Hanna said. “There’s also a lot of transit aircraft coming in. Someone coming in from out of town and maybe spending the weekend.”
Storage needs of modern aircraft also have changed, said Roger Blickensderfer, the airport’s director of facilities and maintenance.
“It’s a big improvement from the old hangars,” said Blickensderfer, who has been with the airport for nearly 20 years. “All of it now leans toward a more corporate perspective. At the same time, the general aviation airplanes also are going to be upgraded to a higher level.”
Green construction, easier door access, washing and maintenance facilities and more space to maneuver planes within a hangar are among the basic needs of modern aircraft. Interior rafters favored by birds — and with predictable results — also have been removed as part of the hangar renovation.
Airport officials plan to assess a second hangar for renovation once the current project is completed.
Taxiways, roads, ramps, buildings, security systems and snow-removal equipment were among $7 million in capital improvements made in 2014. Similar work is expected as part of $8.2 million in improvements planned this year, but the focus will be on terminal improvements for passengers.
Timing depends on funding approval. Funding typically is 90 percent from the federal government, 5 percent from the Springfield Airport Authority and 5 percent from the state.
As of November, passenger numbers were on track for the highest total since 2011 at the Springfield airport, thanks partly to the popularity of Florida flights on discount carrier Allegiant Air.
Hanna said a second passenger bridge and expansion of the security area will help eliminate backups during boarding and departures. In addition to Allegiant, daily scheduled service includes American Airlines flights to Dallas-Fort Worth and United Airlines flights to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago.
Scheduled commercial carriers remain the single largest source of revenue for the airport.
But Hanna said there are few vacancies in current community and corporate hangars, and airport officials must plan for continued growth. The airport also is home to an Illinois Air National Guard unit.
The National Guard completed a nearly $24 million renovation of airport facilities in early 2013.
“When people sit around the kitchen table, they’re thinking about air service and airfares,” Hanna said. “Less than 1 percent of air traffic is air carriers. The rest is general aviation and military.”