In the continuing series of articles on local government, I am discussing the important role the numerous Boards and Commissions play within the community, and the vital contribution the volunteers who serve their community as members of the boards make by providing input and direction impacting all of our futures. In this article, I want to talk about the Airport Advisory Board.
The Airport Advisory Board makes recommendations to city on matters related to the operation and future development of the Sidney Municipal Airport. The Board consists of seven members appointed by the mayor with council confirmation. The members include a city council member, who serves as council’s liaison to the board. The other members represent Corporate Aviation, General Aviation, the Sidney-Shelby County Chamber of Commerce and the Orange Township Trustees.
Members serve staggered three-year terms, and can serve a maximum of three terms. The board meets at 6:30 p.m. the second Thursday during the months of January, April, July, and October. Their meetings are held at the airport terminal.
Current board members include Vice Mayor Mardie Milligan, Orange Township Trustee Dennis Martin, Gary Carter and Russ Gottemoeller representing general aviation, Sean Saddler representing the Sidney-Shelby County Chamber of Commerce, and Gregg Anderson and Gary Heitmeyer representing corporate aviation.
Although not a usual scenario, current Airport Advisory Board Chair Russ Gottemoeller previously served as a member of the Airport Advisory Board. Russ came out of retirement at my request in 2012 to chair the board.
President and founder of Continental Express, Russ is himself a pilot and his jet is based at the airport. Having previously served on the board for the nine year maximum, Russ had intimate knowledge of the long-stalled plans to extend the airport’s east-west runway to 5,013 feet.
The extension of the runway had been on a list of desired projects when I last served as mayor (1987-1989). Children’s Home Road was closed in August 2008 in anticipation of the project being “fast-tracked”.
Unfortunately, the project stalled. There were subsequent periodic meetings with representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Over several years, FAA representatives would fly in, meet with us to tell us they had no money for our project, and then fly back out.
Through a combination of extreme patience exhibited on the local level and ultimately, a severe case of impatience, the FAA eventually funded the project. The main runway extension was constructed. The project was finally completed in 2013
The airport, located approximately 3½ miles south of Sidney just off County Road 25A, is physically located in Orange Township. The city assumed ownership of the airport in 1963.
Although the city has owned the airport for more than half a century, it remains one of the city’s assets about which many residents are unaware. The airport property contains approximately 265 acres and is listed as a General Aviation facility in the NPIAS (National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems).
The airport operates a dual runway system; in addition to the primary 5,013 foot, 75-foot-wide runway, there is a crosswind runway that is 2,981-feet-long and 50-feet-wide. The crosswind runway will accommodate aircraft weighing less than 60,000 pounds in most operational conditions.
Since 1989, the city has contracted with an airport manager. The airport manager is an independent contractor who administers the airport under the direction of city staff. All revenue and expenditures flow through the city’s finance department and the airport manager has a fixed compensation.
The current airport manager is Mike Chappie, the owner and operator is Aerotech Aviation. Mike has served as the airport manager since 2011. In addition to managing the airport, aircraft maintenance, fuel sales and a flight school are all services currently offered at the Sidney Municipal Airport.
For the 12-month period ending Aug. 1, 2017, the airport had 19,555 aircraft operations, an average of 53 per day. Of those, nearly 99 percent were general aviation, 1 percent were designated air taxi, and less than 1 percent were military aircraft.
In fact, much of the traffic during the week is corporate traffic. Although most local corporations do not base their aircraft at the airport, most utilize the airport as part of their operations. Corporate customers include Airstream, Continental Express, Emerson, Honda, Perfection Bakeries and Polysource, among others.
This past year, there were 37 aircraft based at the airport. Of those, 87 percent were single-engine, 8 percent were jets, and 5 percent were multi-engine. The airport has 23 T-hangers, all of which are currently rented.
Capital projects the Airport Advisory Board members have been discussing include apron rehabilitation, rehabilitation of the main taxiway and turnaround improvements, a FAA required wildlife assessment, construction of new T-hangers, replacement of the fuel farm, construction of a parallel taxiway for the primary runway, and lighting replacement/upgrade in the hangers. The total cost of these projects is more than $3.69 million of which 90 percent of the cost was funded through state and federal grant monies.
Whether utilizing federal, state or local monies, all projects must be approved by city council. The airport falls under the direct supervision of Transit Manager Ron Schalow. After working closely with the Airport Advisory Board, Ron would ultimately present projects to Public Works Director Gary Clough for initial approval. The project would then have to be approved by City Manager Mark Cundiff before ultimately coming to City Council for final approval.
In my next article, I’ll talk about the Tree Board. That board is responsible for developing, annually updating, and administering a written plan for the care, preservation, pruning, planting, replanting, removal, or disposition of trees and shrubs in parks, along streets, and in other public areas.
The writer is the mayor of Sidney.