When the Belle Fourche Airport was named the best-maintained medium and large general aviation airport for 2014 last week, it may also have qualified as “most improved.”
The award was made March 19 at the South Dakota Airports Conference in Sioux Falls.
Jason Engbrecht, the state Department of Transportation airport inspector, said Monday that the Belle Fourche airport has made great strides since Jim and Valerie Anderson took over the general airport operation.
A general aviation airport has services for non-scheduled airline flights, and comes in three classes, basic, small, medium and large.
Technically the Belle Fourche facility is “medium,” along with Sturgis, Britton, Chamberlain, Custer, Gettysburg, Gregory, Hot Springs, Milbank, Miller, Mobridge, Philip, Redfield, Vermillion, Wagner and Winner.
Large General Aviation Airports include Spearfish, Brookings, Madison, Mitchell, Tea (Lincoln County), and Yankton.
Scheduled service airports such as Rapid City and Sioux Falls are in a separate classification.
Engbrecht said that medium and large airports were placed together for the award.
Belle Fourche had tremendous upgrades in the overall facilities, he said Monday, since the Andersons took over the responsibility for the facility maintenance as well as a well-regarded aircraft maintenance shop.
He added that the Sturgis and Spearfish airports also are increasing traffic and improving facilities in the Northwest South Dakota area.
Val Anderson said Monday, “Our biggest thing is service. We pump gas at 10 o’clock at night, we pump gas at 5 o’clock in the morning. I think service is the big thing.”
The couple lives on the airport grounds.
She added, “The city came in and did some sheetrocking… but as far as mowing and painting, we take care of that.”
Jim Anderson also does aircraft maintenance and rebuilding.
“We do a little bit of everything,” he said. “We’re pretty heavy on tail wheel style airplanes, but right now I have two nosewheel airplanes in the shop.”
Jim said, “We’ve just done a lot of work up here the last year; trying to move things forward.”
He said he is looking toward adding aircraft for rental and instruction.
The award is based on Engbrecht’s airport inspections.
Steve Hamilton of Yankton, executive director of the South Dakota Pilots Association, said that the report on the Belle Fourche airport reflected significant overall improvement in the appearance and services to pilots at the airport.
The Best Maintained Basic Service Airport Award for 2014 was present to Arlington Airport. The Best Maintained Small General Aviation Airport for 2014 was presented to DeSmet Airport.
Starting in 2004, the SD DOT Office of Air, Rail & Transit established an award program to recognize the “Best Maintained Airports” in the state. From 2004 through 2010 two categories were recognized: Small GA and Large GA, with the air carrier airports excluded.
Starting in 2011, three categories of airports were eligible for the “Best Maintained Airport” awards based on the new categorization of airports in the SD State Aviation System Plan 2010-2030.
Basic Service Airports include Arlington, Bowdle, Clear Lake, Corsica, Custer State Park, Groton, Herreid, Howard, Isabel, Kadoka, Kimball, Lake Andes, Lake Preston, Presho, Timber Lake and White River. Harrold became private in 2010; Dupree closed in 2011; North Sioux City became no longer public in 2011; McIntosh closed in 2012.
Small General Aviation Airports: Bison, Buffalo (Harding County), Canton, Clark, DeSmet, Eagle Butte, Edgemont, Eureka, Faith, Faulkton, Flandreau, Highmore, Hoven, Martin, McLaughlin, Murdo, Onida, Parkston, Pine Ridge, Platte, Rosebud, Sisseton, Springfield, Wall, Webster and Wessington Springs.
Medium General Aviation Airports: Belle Fourche, Britton, Chamberlain, Custer, Gettysburg, Gregory, Hot Springs, Milbank, Miller, Mobridge, Philip, Redfield, Sturgis, Vermillion, Wagner and Winner.
Large General Aviation Airports: Brookings, Madison, Mitchell, Spearfish, Tea (Lincoln County) and Yankton.
Air Carrier airports — excluded from consideration: Aberdeen, Huron, Pierre, Rapid City, Sioux Falls and Watertown.
The criteria for the annual SD Airport Awards are:
Airport must have all lights working including PAPIs (precision approach path indicator) and beacon (if applicable). There can be no burnt out bulbs, damaged bases, missing lights, etc.
Airport needs to be mowed in all areas that are required to be mowed.
All fences need to be maintained well and all gates closed and locked.
The entrance road must be in good shape with no potholes or bumps.
Airports need to keep their pavements in workable condition — meaning proper maintenance needs to be done like crack sealing, crack repair, FOD (foreign object debris) removed.
There can be no obstructions that are in the approach slope areas. Obstructions are usually trees, but can be anything that penetrates the different slopes.
Pavement marking should be to FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) standards and in good shape.
All signs leading to the airport and on the airport (airside signs) should be readable, straight, not faded, and in proper place.
The airport should look neat, free from debris, and be kept up in a tidy fashion. In general it should look nice and be pleasing to the eye.