Home to about 100 planes and a runway big enough to land corporate jets, the Fairfield County Airport has seen $1.2 million in upgrades this year through local and grant funding.
The airport is marketing itself as a more convenient and time-saving option for corporate jets looking for a landing option near Columbus. The upgrades to the airport make the facility more appealing to future customers, said Jon Kochis a Fairfield County Airport Authority Board member. More grant funds were available this year for projects than previous years since fuel tax on aviation fuel is now exclusively used for airport projects through the Ohio Department of Transportation Office of Aviation.
More than $1 million was spent on seven airport projects in 2016, some of which were grant funded:
A wildlife mitigation survey meant to study wildlife hazards at the airport and provide recommendations to alleviate those issues. ($11,000, grant funded)
The terminal’s roof was refurbished, updating the original from 1969. ($115,000, locally funded)
A precision approach path indicator was installed to show incoming pilots if they are too high or too low. ($130,000, grant funded)
The runway, which is 5,000 feet long, was resurfaced. ($650,000, grant funded)
Runway lighting was improved with LEDs for brightness and efficiency. ($233,000)
A storm water and vegetation management plan were funded to show what action would need to be taken if there was contamination. ($8,000, locally funded by the Fairfield County Soil and Water Conservation District.)
The airport’s parking lot was resurfaced.( $53,000, locally funded)
The airport’s runway, which has been the same size since the 1970s, can handle a midsize jet. If the runway was ever to expand, it would need about 600 additional feet of runway to take on a larger jet, Kochis said.
“We would definitely like to tap into the corporate jet (business),” he said.
During the campaign, the jet for one of President-elect Donald Trump’s sons landed at the Fairfield County Airport, but Trump’s jet was too large to land.
“(Trump’s campaign workers) contacted us and we told them that jet was a little too big to land at our airport,” Kochis said.
“We’re just unique that we offer that ability. … We have some corporate jets landing here already,” he said.
Operations at the airport have changed over the years, including the skydiving business that ceased operations in December.
Fairfield County Economic Development Director Rick Szabrak, who will join the airport board in January, said there is an obvious connection between the airport and local economic development. Szabrak said it’s “quick and easy access” for private jets.
“We have the luxury of being so close to Columbus … without the hurdles of a larger busier airport,” Szabrak said.
In the time it takes for a plane to land and taxi and passengers to exit at a larger airport in the area, Kochis said a jet could land in Lancaster and already have traveled to Columbus for business.
Szabrak said it also would give executives a chance to see what the area has to offer and may lead to further economic development in the county.
Pat Rooney, chief pilot for Sundowner Aviation, which is the airport’s fixed-base operator, said the airport is a big competitor.
“There’s always somebody here,” Rooney said. “The price of gas is right. The building is open so you have the facilities to use. We’re definitely in the top 10 percent (of county and municipal airports in the state).