Airport Board Chief Updates Chamber on Airport
March 7, 2016
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  • “A tremendous asset in our backyard.”

    That’s how Tim James, airport board chair, described the Morehead-Rowan County Clyde A. Thomas Regional Airport to Chamber of Commerce members last Thursday.

    “I want to talk about a tremendous facility that you have right here,” James said. “It is one that caters to many different citizens, providing a much needed service throughout the community.”

    James provided background on the formation of the new facility. He said local legislation is what got the effort started and pointed in the right direction.

    “Judge Clyde A. Thomas really pushed in getting this accomplished,” he said. “Former Rep. John Will Stacy and former Sen. Walter Blevins also were there pushing us along. Also, Congressman Hal Rogers was helping us from every angle and we appreciate that.”

    The airport was completed in 2007 to replace the old airport in Farmers.

    “The old airport was 2,600 feet long on 45 acres, less than half of what we have now on 325 acres,” James said. “It’s a large facility and most people don’t realize how big it actually is.”

    There are 36 aircraft based at KSYM (airport geographic code), with 24 hangars at full occupancy.

    It also offers pilots top-of-the-line instrument landing technology.

    “We have advanced instrument landing technology so that even in bad weather you can land at the Morehead-Rowan County Airport,” he said.

    The FBO (fixed based operator) is Mike and Tracey Potter. They offer flight instruction on private and commercial flight along with instrument training. They also can provide aircraft maintenance and repair and aircraft rental.

    “They cover it all,” said James. “Mike does flight instruction and both are highly capable in aircraft repair. They can take care of any of your needs. They can help you with instructions up through commercial and instrument ratings. Also, they can do heavy maintenance on your aircraft.”

    The facility sells two types of fuel – 100 octane low-lead gasoline and Jet-A.

    “100 low-lead is the type of fuel used in piston aircraft,” he said. “Jet-A is the fuel used in turbine jet planes.”

    James said the most popular question he gets as board chair is the size of aircraft that can land on the 5,500 foot long runway which is 100 feet wide. He said most are surprised to see just how large an aircraft can land at the rural airport.

    “Most people are shocked. We can handle some pretty good sized aircraft,” he said.

    He noted the design of the runway was to accommodate aircraft such as the Gulfstream IV, a twin-engine jet mainly used for private or business use.

    “And then we have much smaller aircraft which land on a very regular basis.”

    James also noted an open parcel near the airport for industrial use. The Morehead-Rowan County Industrial Development Authority has 40 acres next to the airport near the National Guard Armory off KY 801.

    “The 40 acres has infrastructure in place so all is needed is a developer. If you know of a business that wishes to be near an airport, in a good neighborhood and next to an industrial center, all they have to do it take interest and move forward.”

    The infrastructure includes a new airport road constructed with state and federal funds along with a new roadway designed to maximize vehicular access to the Aviation Business Park for new business and industry development.

    Waste water and water line installation also were included along the entire 1.8-mile route funded primarily by a state economic development grant.

    James listed the variety of customers utilizing the facility, included general aviation pilots, Independent Stave Company, Kentucky Fire Commission, PHI Air Medical, state and federal officials, military, Kentucky State Police, Dollar General Store corporate aircraft, aerial photography, gas line and power line patrols, Eastern Kentucky University and University of Cincinnati student pilots and even some Morehead State University students.

    He explained the airport’s unrestricted operating revenues. The city of Morehead gives $15,000 per year into the facility and the county contributes $10,000. Hangar revenue totals $45,000 and fuel sales generate about $5,000.

    “We operate on a shoe string considering we have such a large facility and so much going on,” said James. “We run a 325-acre, full-service facility on just $75,000 per year. I think we do a pretty good job.”

    He also detailed the agency’s non-cash support. The city has helped with runway and taxiway drainage system repairs and has donated a work truck and courtesy car.

    The county has provided the hauling of top soil and organic matter, drainage system repairs, road maintenance, snow removal and the donation of a large truck with snow blade.

    “We really appreciate both groups pitching in to help us out,” James said.

    He reviewed funding of the airport which cost just over $23 million.

    “About $17 million came from federal funds with nearly $6 million coming from the state,” he said. “We gained $238,000 from selling the old airport property and in other contributions from local government.”

    The airport typically receives $150,000 in annual funding from the Federal Aviation Administration that is used specifically for safety issues and upgrades.

    The Kentucky Department of Aviation matches FAA grants which are generally 7.5 percent. KDA also helps with runway and taxiway non-routine repairs and fixes.

    MSU helps with hay bailing, bush hogging and top soil enhancement with organize material and fertilizer.

    The Kentucky Division of Forestry has loaned bulldozers and operators.

    James elaborated on the regional impact the airport has had in the last few months.

    More than 25,000 operations at KSYM have occurred in the past 12 months. An operation is one particular action. For instance, if a plane lands and takes off at the airport, that is considered two operations.

    “I believe that’s significant,” James said.

    Over the past four months, the airport has sold 8,104 gallons of 100 low-lead and 10,634 gallons of Jet-A fuel.

    “When it comes to other impacts, people are coming to stay overnight at our hotels and eat at our restaurants,” he said. “There are many who come to visit attractions such as Cave Run Lake and Morehead State University.”

    The airport’s initiatives include Angel Flights, Pilots N Paws Pet Rescue and EAA Young Eagles Rallies in which local pilots have donated hundreds of free plane rides for children between 8 and 18 for the past three years.

    The airport has a 10-member board and operates in accordance with KRS 183. The board has five members appointed by the city and five from county that all serve four- year terms.

    Current board members are James, Porter Dailey as vice chair, Bruce Mattingly as treasurer, Dr. Charles Derrickson, Dr. Tom Fossett, Mike Gray, Ron Oliver, Jim LeMaster, Harry Clark and Aaron Roberts.

    The airport hosts a monthly pancake breakfast sponsored by the local EAA Chapter and the FBO. The breakfast is the first Saturday of each month and is held inside the large community hangar. The public is invited to the breakfast between 7:30 a.m. until 10 a.m. The cost is $5.

    For more information on the airport, call 780-0085.

    Brad Stacy can be reached at or by telephone at 784-4116.