Hangar, runway expansions at DeKalb County Airport

AUBURN, Ind. (WANE) – More and more corporate and commercial planes want to fly out of a regional airport. The demand has caused the DeKalb County Airport to expand.

Jet and air craft traffic has continued to increase in recent years, and more people have wanted to house their planes at the airport. That’s why leaders with the airport authority built two new rows of hangars that will hold 11 more planes.

“We’ve had a waiting list at this airport for over a decade,” said airport manager Russ Couchman, who said there is room for 66 planes right now. The additional 11 will open in May. “Believe it or not, we have two people on the waiting list still after we filled all of the hangars we’re just building.”

Hangar space will likely continue to be addressed. The airport as another section of hangars that is outdated and will need replaced soon.

The airport also recently finished remodeling a terminal.

More planes will generate more business at the regional airport. The airport does receive a small amount of money through property taxes, but leaders hope that soon the airport will not need to rely on those dollars.

“The current board tried to make these new hangars pay for themselves,” Couchman said. “Currently they do so they won’t be a drain to us or to the taxpayer.”

The airport is also making the runway safer for those to use it.

That’s why the airport is in the midst of expanding its 5000-foot runway to somewhere between 6,400 and 7,000 feet.

“A lot of times when pilots are looking for an airport they won’t search for any airport with less than a 7,000-foot runway,” Couchman said. “We think it’s important to go to 7,000 feet to be competitive.”

The airport needed the Federal Aviation Administration’s approval for the expansion. It deemed the expansion redeemable and said it would help fund it.

The expansion will cost $9 million overall, with the FAA funding approximately $8.1 million, or 90 percent. The state will cover five percent, and the airport – along with local governments – will fit the rest of the bill.

The FAA has already helped fund the initial phases of the project. It began with an environmental impact study, which took five years.

From there, engineers are working with others to get other projects done so the runway can be extended.

The airport is working with American Electric Power to remove power lines, which AEP had planned as it increases power in the Auburn area. It has already gotten permission to remove a section of County Road 29, between C.R. 60 and 62. The airport will build a new road to help motorists. Also a section of wetlands, which sits on the east end of the property, will be moved off site west of the airport. Extending the runway will give pilots flying in bad weather conditions a longer area to land. “This is a major safety concern,” said Couchman.

Pilots flying in bad weather come in to land at a different angle and need more space to stop.

“If you have to shoot a minimum approach, you will have to use a stabilized approach,” Dan Schiebel, a pilot who flies out of the DeKalb airport a few times a week, said. “That’s going to put your touch down approximately 1,200 feet down the runway. At a 5,000-foot strip like Auburn, that leaves you with 3,800 feet.”

Schiebel said an average jet would need at least 3,000 feet to land in that scenario. If snow, rain, or ice is on the runway, the landing would take more space and could easily force the pilot to make landing arrangements at another airport.

“Runway behind you or non-existing runway is pretty useless to an airplane pilot,” said Couchman.

With all the outlying work needed to pave the runway, the extension would likely take place in the next three to five years.

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