LACON — The Marshall County Airport will be recognized as the 2015 Illinois General Aviation Airport of the Year on Thursday at a state conference in Rockford.
“We’re really excited about it. It’s really a nice thing for us and for the county,” said Charlie Allen, the longtime chairman of an appointed board that oversees the county-owned facility.
Several awards are given each year in various categories of airport size and services, and the selections are based on four general factors, according to a recent letter to Allen from Steven M. Young, interim director of the Illinois Department of Transportation’s Division of Aeronautics.
Those are cooperation and coordination with the state agency and the Federal Aviation Administration; the safety record; the service provided to the community; and general maintenance, said Young, who called the local airport “one of the outstanding examples of aviation excellence in Illinois.”
Local officials were notified partly to be sure that someone would be attending the annual Illinois Aviation Conference to receive the award, but they haven’t been told any more specifics about exactly how or why it came about, Allen said Tuesday.
“They usually have a PowerPoint presentation about each of the airports, but I don’t know what it’s going to say about us,” Allen said. “We’ll know more about it after we get up there.”
At the same time, Allen and airport manager Barry Logan said the factors probably would involve completion of major runway and taxiway expansions last year. In a project bankrolled mostly by federal funds, the larger of two runways was extended from 3,200 to 4,001 feet, creating space for small corporate jets as well as smaller personal aircraft that includes light planes hangared at the site just east of Lacon.
“I believe the main reason we’ve been chosen is that we’ve worked hard to improve the airport,” Logan said.
Recent improvements have also included renovations to a lobby serving pilots and installation of innovative LED runway lighting that sticks out in more ways than grabbing the attention of vehicle traffic on nearby Illinois Route 17, Allen said.
“Pilots really love it,” he said. “That’s been a great improvement for us.”
While preparing for the state conference, Allen and Logan also were joining numerous other officials and volunteers in early preparations for the annual Father’s Day Fly-in/Drive-in breakfast at the airport on June 21. Allen’s mother helped cook for the first event when he was in college in 1957, and it seems to have grown in popularity ever since then.