News that East Texas Regional Airport is expanding to accommodate demand for hangar space at the airfield south of Longview says good things about the area economy.
We learned this week that the county-owned airport is beginning a process to build a new taxiway that could serve about a dozen badly needed new private hangars. While that obviously means the already-bustling field soon will be getting busier, it means something else, as well: Area business is picking up, and demand for the infrastructure necessary to support the private aviation that goes along with it is an indicator of that.
While many East Texans think of the airport only for the American Eagle commercial flights that take off and land there, the fact is that is only a small piece of the airport’s total activity. The vast majority of it is general aviation, based around the numerous privately or corporate-owned planes that make their home base in more than 100 hangars already operating there.
They house fleets of planes used by locally owned businesses and corporations to ferry staff to far-flung operations and meetings, charter services that haul passengers and freight, and private owners who keep their planes at East Texas Regional mainly for recreational use. All those aircraft require fuel and maintenance, so firms that provide services are seeing business increase, too.
The airport also is home to LeTourneau University’s Abbott Aviation Center, a sprawling facility that houses flight training and maintenance education classrooms, air traffic control education and several aircraft.
But the airport has run out of space for construction of more hangars, which are necessary to keep the airport growing. So a Gregg County budget priority in the coming budget year is adding the taxiways necessary to provide access to undeveloped land, of which there is plenty.
Already, we are told, there is at least one aircraft owner looking for space at the field, and County Judge Bill Stoudt told us this summer that there is corporate demand on the horizon from more businesses that want to build hangars at East Texas Regional.
The construction is part of a long-term plan for development of the facility that was recently revised to address current needs. Airport Director Roy Miller said this week the development getting started now will be done in phases over the next three to five years, probably depending on demand.
Our guess is that it will be done sooner rather than later as demand from what appears to be a revving local economy makes that a necessity.