More changes due for Putnam County Regional Airport

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Meeting for the first time as the Putnam County Airport Authority early this month, the former Board of Airport Commissioners wasted little time in making another change at the Putnam County Airport.

The facility just east of Greencastle will now be known as the Putnam County Regional Airport.

"What that's going to do is help us get into a broader market," airport authority president J.R. Scott said, explaining that the goal is to serve a wider area than simply Greencastle and Putnam County.

"What we're trying to do is re-brand the airport and reach out into a broader market."

The dawn of 2014 is certainly a time for the five-member board to think about bigger things. The change from a BOAC to an airport authority is not simply nominal.

Now organized as an authority, the airport now has its own tax levy and the ability to raise more funds for the management upkeep of the facility.

However, the transition to an airport authority has been ongoing, so the Putnam County Commissioners saw fit to keep the same members in place who had served on the BOAC.

Besides Scott as president, other members include vice president Perry Wainman, treasurer Rex Eaton and members Duane Skoog and Vern Bothwell Jr.

The coming year will be one of transition for the airport, as the $3.9 million runway and taxiway improvement project will commence during the summer.

Scott told the Banner Graphic that DePauw University events bring heavier traffic, so the project will not begin until after both commencement and alumni weekend.

As such, the 90-day construction window will begin on June 9, with the airport closed to big traffic.

During most of this time, small planes will still be able to land on the 2,300 feet that will remain open.

The entire runway will be closed for the final 30 days of the project, leaving no aircraft able to take off or land.

The 90-day window coincides almost exactly with Airport Appreciation Days, which take place on Sept. 6 and 7. This means that a good pace could mean being done just before the annual event.

However, any delays could mean celebrating the airport while it is not technically reopened.

While a grant is paying 90 percent of the cost of the project, a portion of the local match still needs to be met. Scott reported that as of Jan. 24, the amount still falls $13,191 short.

Beyond this year and the runway project, the board is also looking at some long-term goals.

Within the next 18 months, it hopes to again have flight training at the Putnam County Regional Airport.

Additionally, officials are looking into starting a build-a-plane program and involve area schools.

The idea is to have a career-oriented class with a partner such as Area 30 in which students build a plane from a kit and eventually fly in the craft they build.

"When you build something that your life depends on, it takes on a whole different mindset," Scott said.

Beyond the 18-month window, Scott said other improvements and expansions have at least been discussed. These include land acquisition and additional facilities and hangars at an airport that is currently out of hangar space.

"We are full now and we've got a waiting list," Scott said.

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