Perched on the city’s southeast side, the Dixon Municipal Airport has had a varied and interesting past.
History tell us that Charles R. Walgreen, the drug store chain founder, was a strong proponent of local aviation in the 1920s and 1930s. The city later honored Walgreen by naming the airfield after him in 1964.
Personages such as aviator Jimmy Doolittle and former Gov. Henry Horner, who helped dedicate the airport in 1934, and Ronald Reagan have been there.
So have music concerts hosted by the Petunia Festival, along with large and well-attended fly-ins and air shows in the early part of this century.
But what does the future hold for the airport?
At the urging of new City Manager Cole O’Donnell, the Dixon City Council has decided to find out.
The council this week agreed to move forward with a feasibility study to evaluate the airport’s operations and come up with recommendations on how to improve it and make it pay its way.
The problem is, the airport is running a deficit budget, and it is not used that often.
Expenditures for 2015 were about $135,000, but income was only about $42,000. That came mostly from rentals.
The airport itself sees only about five takeoffs a week, mostly from pleasure aircraft.
The hope for the feasibility study, which is estimated to cost from $10,000 to $30,000, is that it will point out ways to modernize and expand the airport (lengthening a runway is one possibility) so that it would become more attractive to business aviation.
Even before the new administration, led by Mayor Li Arellano Jr., took office last May, and the new city manager came on board at the first of the year, city leaders were looking at better ways to capitalize on the airport.
Now, with the feasibility study in the planning stages (it likely will take place between June and October), the council is laying the groundwork for future decisions that, we hope, bode well for local aviation.
Starting in the early 2010s, the city spent millions of dollars to redevelop its downtown infrastructure.
It’s fitting that a city-owned facility on the outskirts of town now receives attention.
We hope the study leads to an aviation resurgence and a greater role for the Dixon Municipal Airport in the city’s future.