Officials give update on airport expansion
by Erin Dentmon
edentmon@cherokeetribune.com
January 30, 2013 12:13 AM | 1203 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Cherokee County Regional Airport’s first full year with an extended runway brought larger aircraft and increased fuel sales. But the Airport Authority isn’t done improving.

Airport Authority member John Marinko and airport engineer Phil Eberly gave an update on the airport’s activities Monday to the Development Authority of Cherokee County.

After more than 40 years with a 3,400-foot runway, expansions completed in 2011 brought the runway’s length to 5,002 feet.

The expansion also included a new fueling facility, larger hangars and a new terminal building.

With the longer runway, the airport is now able to serve jets and larger airplanes.

Goals for the next five to seven years include adding additional hangar space, relocating the entrance road and extending the runway to 6,000 feet.

Eberly said additional hangars should be under construction soon and will be built on land obtained by the county in a November land swap.

Eventually, the Airport Authority hopes to double the hangar space.

“It’s going to be pretty significant. The airport won’t look the same two years from now,” Marinko said.

The airport provides 140 jobs and has a total economic output of $12.76 million, Eberly said.

Sales of aviation gasoline at the Cherokee County airport reached 93,000 gallons in 2012. Jet fuel sales reached 83,000 gallons.

Gross revenue from fuel sales and aviation maintenance was $2.5 million. In 2009, sales reached $60,000 and 15,000 gallons.

“All of that was without a marketing plan in place,” Marinko said, noting that the Airport Authority is working on a marketing plan.

For the last four months of 2012, the airport saw 730 visitors in September, 694 in October, 557 in November and 610 in December.

Marinko said the aim of the airport improvements is to increase its economic development impact.

“We’re trying to get as much runway out there as possible so we can accommodate aircraft going all over the country. Obviously, that’s a big attraction for companies to be based here,” he said.

The planned longer runway won’t necessarily allow larger aircraft, Eberly said, but could attract aircraft looking to fly a longer distance.

Currently, planes flying out of the Cherokee County airport can’t store enough fuel to get to the West Coast, for example, because the fuel required is too heavy for a plane to lift off in 5,000 feet.

The timeline for the next runway expansion is undetermined and depends on funding.

Marshall Day, chairman of the Development Authority of Cherokee County, said the airport expansions were a daunting task when first discussed.

“We’ve been blessed with great leadership,” he said. “We did think this airport would be an economic driver for generations, and it has proven to be that.”
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