CARROLLTON, Ky. (December 2003) A federal and state-funded
feasibility study to determine the need for a regional airport for
Carroll, Gallatin and Owen counties has been completed, with a site-selection
committee expected to generate a short list of choice by mid-December.
The study, sent to the Federal Aviation Administration in November,
will provide the necessary information for local government officials
to move forward in locating an airport, probably near the Kentucky
Speedway along I-71 in Sanders, Ky., said Tim Haskell, a consultant
who presented the studys findings Nov. 10 at the Carroll County
Chamber of Commerce monthly meeting at Gen. Butler State Resort Park.
by Don Ward
Tim Haskell (left) displays a
map of possible sites for the airport.
Kentucky Speedway officials and industrial companies located along
the Ohio River are expected to be the primary users of such an airport,
but the plan is to also offer aircraft storage and maintenance to
private owners, Haskell said.
We anticipate enough demand for up to 75 aircraft to be housed
here by owners living between Cincinnati and Louisville, said
Haskell, who works for HMB Engineers in Frankfort, Ky., but is based
in Nashville, Tenn.
The study involved taking an inventory of aircraft owned in the region,
both private and corporate; assess airspace needs; and surveying aircraft
owners in the region.
We asked them if they would use an airport in that area, and
how often, Haskell said. We then asked if they would consider
locating their aircraft there. The response was overwhelming, with
about 15 aircraft owners saying they would locate their planes there.
Haskell said the FAA, which ultimately has the final say in whether
the airport project will go through, seriously considers the survey
results of area aircraft owners. He predicted the FAA would approve
the application very quickly.
That brings the project to its second step: locating a site. The consultants
plan to identify up to 15 potential sites, then narrow it to the top
three and present them to the three county judge-executives by mid-December.
All potential sites must provide at least 8,000 feet of flat ground
for a runway. This includes a 6,000-foot runway with 1,000 feet of
overrun on both ends.
Other factors being considered are the topography, ease of access
to the three counties, the air space around the area, environmental
concerns, developmental cost projections, and proximity to schools,
residential areas, cemeteries and historical buildings.
Haskell said it would take up to 400 acres to accommodate a runway,
parking area and terminal.
by Don Ward
small aircraft heads for the runway
at the Madison Municipal Airport.
Meanwhile, the three county judge-executives must decide how to manage
and operate the future facility probably via an aviation board
Obviously, the existence of the Kentucky Speedway in our area
has created interest in an airport for the region, but we believe
there are many benefits to local residents, too, said Harold
Shorty Tomlinson, Carroll County Judge-Executive. We
want to emphasize that at this point, the feasibility study did not
cost local tax payers a single cent. It was paid for entirely with
The operation and maintenance of a future airport, however, could
come at the expense of tax payers in the three counties for which
it serves. Similar small airports, such as the Madison Municipal Airport,
are funded primarily by an taxing authority, plus revenues generated
from hangar rental and fuel sales.
The proposed regional airport would generate only about a dozen jobs,
but it is the secondary benefits, Haskell said, that are most important.
The existence of such a facility in the region could entice
new industries to locate here, thus creating jobs. Other secondary
benefits exist but are hard to measure.
Haskell estimated the cost to build the airport at $10 million to
$15 million, with the burden shared by federal (90 percent), state
(5 percent) and local (5 percent) governments. Federal money for airport
projects is generated within the aviation industry from fuel taxes,
aircraft registration fees, ticket fees and parts.
Kentucky Speedway officials are anxious for a nearby airport to help
in their campaign for a future Winston Cup (to be alled Nex-Tel Cup
in 2004) race. Nearly all Winston Cup race sites use nearby airports
to ferry drivers in and out of the track. Some tracks report up to
200 aircraft operations per race week, enough to fund the airports
entire year of operating expense, Haskell said.
NASCAR feels it is a requirement for a race because the transportation
needs are tremendous, Haskell said.
Once a site is chosen, it will be up to the willingness of the property
owners to sell to complete the land acquisition.
Charles Shontz, a pilot from Louisville who attended the chamber
meeting, said, I think its a wonderful idea for a regional
airport, and Im sure the Kentucky Speedway is driving it, but
I believe finding 75 aircraft to be based there is optimistic.
Haskell admitted that only 14 percent of the surveys mailed to aircraft
owners in the region were returned. That means 86 percent are
obviously not interested, he said. We assume 40 to 45
initial aircraft would be based there.
Opened in 1964, the Madison Municipal Airport is located only 15-20
miles from the Ohio River industrial plants and 30 miles from the
Kentucky Speedway. It has taken four decades to get it to a stable
and profitable point, and two years ago opened its new $300,000 terminal.
This year, a new computerized weather system was installed. The airport
is owned by the city and managed by an independent contractor, Jim
Melton. He said the costs are high simply to maintain an airport.
It cost nearly $1 million just to pave our runway in 1992,
Melton said. The city plans to extend the 4,400-foot runway to 5,000
feet northward by 2007 and repave the existing runway again. By comparison,
the Madison airport has 20 rented hangars with about 55 aircraft and
sells fuel to pilots. There are privately operated maintenance facilities
This airport is not that far from where they are talking about
building this new regional airport, Melton said. Our Board
of Commissioners have worked hard to make this airport nice for the
whole region, and I hate to see it underutilized.
The commissioners 20-year plan includes building a second runway
to accommodate larger aircraft. Also, a Cincinnati company has expressed
interest in building a jet maintenance facility there, Melton said.