Ellyn Couvillion THE ADVOCATE
Ascension, St. James Airport Gets More Land; New, Longer Runway Open
July 20, 2015
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  • The Louisiana Regional Airport just outside the city limits of Gonzales grew by about 30 acres last week when a long-wished-for land purchase was closed Wednesday.

    The Ascension-St. James Airport and Transportation Authority, which operates the airport, purchased 28.3 acres of undeveloped woodlands south of the airport for $677,567.

    “We’ve been looking at getting it for future expansion,” Jared Amato, a member of the Ascension-St. James Airport and Transportation Authority, said of the additional land that brings the size of the airport to 180 acres.

    In years to come, the new property could be home to as many as 10 new hangar buildings with space in high demand by airplane owners, said Janet Gonzales, the general manager of the airport.

    The money to purchase the property came from a grant from the Aviation Division of the state Department of Transportation and Development that’s funded through revenue from a sales tax on aviation fuel, Gonzales said.

    After a yearslong application process, the Ascension-St. James Airport and Transportation Authority learned earlier this year that it had gotten the grant, Gonzales said.

    The airport, tucked away at the end of a winding road off La. 44 south of Interstate 10, serves the pilots of prop planes and corporate jets.

    Gonzales estimates there are an average of 600 takeoffs and landings of small aircraft at the airport each week.

    The airport is home to 115 airplanes that are either housed in one of seven hangars or tied down outside.

    Monthly rent for hangar space is $270 to $390 and tie-down space is $30.

    But there’s demand for more hangar space.

    “I definitely have a waiting list for hangars,” Gonzales said. “I’ve got people who have given deposits, waiting for a hangar. The demand is obvious.”

    Increasing the size of the airport is part of the airport’s long-term master plan, Gonzales said.

    “The usage continues to grow,” she said.

    The property purchased this week by the airport was carved out of a 307-acre parcel of land called Donaldson Clark Plantation, said Gary Binns, associate broker with Realty Executives South Louisiana in Prairieville, which brokered the sale.

    Another airport project, the extension of its runway from 4,000 feet to 5,000 feet, was completed in April after more than a year of construction.

    The longer runway satisfies insurance requirements for corporate jets of a certain weight that use the airport on hot and humid days.

    A runway less than 5,000 feet becomes a problem on muggy summer days, when the air is less dense and there’s less lift for takeoff.

    Pilots of corporate jets avoid airports with shorter runways in such weather or try to keep the plane light by not refueling before takeoff and traveling to another airport with a longer runway to refuel.

    With its new, longer runway now complete, the airport anticipates more sales of fuel.

    Pilots can refuel at a company called Aviation Specialists, located at the airport, and the airport receives 15 cents per gallon sold for prop planes and 10 cents per gallon for jet aircraft, Gonzales said.

    An average of 6,000 gallons to 8,000 gallons is sold each month for prop planes and 1,000 gallons is sold for jets, she said.

    It’s too soon, Gonzales said, to see how much new revenue the longer runway will bring in from corporate jets that fuel up at the airport.

    “We’re so early in it,” Grant said of the 5,000-foot runway the airport’s been offering for about three months.

    “It’s all a process,” she said.

    The development of the new property to the south for additional hangars also will take time, she said, and the airport will be seeking funds for that development from the Aviation Division of the DOTD.

    “It’s years out, but this is the first step,” she said of the land purchase.