Since Thomas Heanue became its executive director in 2002, Hattiesburg-Laurel Regional Airport has seen the number of general aviation hangars more than double from seven to 16.
And sometime later this year, the airport will be clearing enough new taxiway space to eventually add to those numbers in the future.
Construction on a 100-foot by 100-foot hangar that will house three private jets has been underway for nearly the past month, and a request for bids on a similar-sized structure could be let as early as next month.
“We are going to need to build another hangar within the next few months to house more aircraft coming to PIB,” Heanue said. “We have a King Air, a Hawker Jet and a helicopter waiting for hangar space. We don’t build hangars until we have aircraft to occupy them.”
Those will be the eighth and ninth hangars built at Hattiesburg-Laurel since 2002, excluding the rebuilding of a smaller structure that was wrecked by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
And those will bring the airport’s total to 16 hangars built since general aviation services began in 1974.
But it also means the taxiway space currently available for hangar construction has been used.
So, Heanue said the airport’s annual Airport Improvement Project this year will be the construction of a new hangar access taxiway on 5-plus acres of land just north of the current hangars.
Heanue said Hattiesburg-Laurel already has been approved for $762,587 from the Federal Aviation Administration, and he expected the project to start early this fall.
When finished, the airport will have room to construct eight 100-foot by 100-foot hangars.
Currently, the airport is home to more than 75 general aviation aircraft.
“General aviation growth is the future of the airport,” Heanue said, “and growth in this airport is growth in our local economies.”
The hangar currently under construction costs $463,130, with about 54 percent of the price tag covered by a $250,000 Mississippi Department of Transportation Multi-Modal grant. The airport borrowed the difference from the Mississippi Development Authority, and the 3 percent interest loan will be paid back through a mix of hangar rental and fuel sales.
Money to pay for the ninth hangar also will come from a mix of rent and fuel sales.
Heanue said the airport’s board already had given permission to let bids for the next hangar.
“We’re going to go for bids on that one soon and see what kind of numbers we are playing with,” he said. “Sometime in May, probably.”
Heanue said any multi-modal funding made available during this fiscal year would be used for repair and refurbishing of older hangars.
“Just this and that,” Heanue said. “Some are losing insulation, some are leaking. They all could use a little paint. Some of them are just old and need some tender, loving care.
“(The multi-modal funds), that’s money that you can use for that that you can’t find other places. A hangar, if I build it, I can just use rent and fuel sales to pay for it off the (fixed-base operator) lease. To refurb, there’s no FAA money for that, and it’s tough to just come up with some $100,000 or $200,000 for refurbbing.”
Heanue said multi-modal money had been used to put a new roof and gutters a few years ago on a T-hangar.
“It’s general housekeeping, things you have to do just every so often,” he said.