Runway expansion is airport priority

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

LE MARS -- Part of the mission statement of the Le Mars Municipal Airport is to maintain the ability of the City of Le Mars and Plymouth County to be competitive with other cities and counties for new and expanding business opportunities.

Airport manager Earl Draayer reminded Le Mars City Council members of that as he presented his annual report at the Jan. 5 city council meeting.

Draayer said since he became associated with the airport in 1983, it has grown and seen the change from single engine planes to turboprop and jet planes making regular landings at the airport.

Back then, he estimates he sold 1,500 gallons of jet fuel a year.

Now he sells between 25-30,000 gallons a year.

"We have many aircraft come to the airport that no one ever sees," he said.

Improvements continue to be key for the airport, according to Draayer.

The City of Le Mars, in conjunction with the Airport Advisory Committee, Bolton & Menk Engineering, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Aviation Division of the Iowa Department of Transportation have embarked on a five-year plan to make several improvements to the airport.

Lengthening the runway 5,000 feet would allow it to fit into insurance industry standards for medium size corporate aircraft, Draayer said in his report. It would allow local industry expansion capability and transient fractional jet operation to operate in and out of the Le Mars Municipal Airport, he said.

"Our priority is expanding the runway to 5,000 feet. That's the most critical when talking about jet aircraft," Draayer said. "Our target date for that is about 2018."

There are a number of things that must be done before the expansion can take place.

"We must do an environmental study and then obtain air space easement. We can't allow anyone to build anything in the approach corridor," Draayer said.

That corridor would be the north end of the runway, he said.

Current projects underway or in the process of obtaining FAA approval are:

* Submitting state grant request for replacement of fencing around the airport parking lot.

* Submitting federal grant request for a new taxiway.

* Submitting federal grant request for an environmental study, which is the first step to expansion to 5,000 feet.

In the past year, approach ramps to hangers 11-16 were installed, Draayer reported.

Also in progress is the remodeling of the airport terminal.

"That was originally built in 1983, and hasn't been remodeled since, only new wallpaper and carpet," Draayer said.

The remodel includes an entrance from the parking lot to the terminal. Passengers and guests would be able to access the runway from the terminal.

"That will provide more security and safety for everyone," Draayer said. "Yes, people have been known to walk into propellers."

He explained a wide range of individuals utilize the Le Mars Municipal Airport.

The terminal remodel will give those guests a good first impression of Le Mars, he added.

In his annual report, Draayer also cited how the airport is used by various entities. They include:

* Air ambulance service.

* Agriculture services -- applications of crop enhancing agents such as fungicides, insecticides and cover crop for soil improvement and erosion control.

* Corporate transportation for business enhancement and expansion.

* Transient corporate and charter aircraft providing services for local business.

* To attract new start-up business utilizing the transportation system.

* Recreation aviation.

He also pointed out the airport is a part of a large transportation system in Plymouth County that includes rail lines, four-lane highways, paved county roads, gravel country roads and the city street system.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: