Input Needed To Proceed With Airport Improvements

Nacogdoches residents who never go to the A.L. Mangham Regional Airport are still benefiting from it. That's according to airport users whose businesses help community growth. This input could help take the airport expansion project to the next level.

Dennis Jones loves working on his plane. He keeps it at the Mangham airport, but understands the facility has a much greater purpose. "My flying is mostly recreational, but that's not the purpose of the airport. Airports are for everybody, but the people who really benefit from it the most is the town itself."

The airport benefits the city by the customers it serves. Ask the person who provides the fuel for takeoffs. Maximum Aviation's Wendell Billiot said, "Throughout the week we have 3 to 5 aircraft landing here that are pertaining to corporate activity. Most of them are local businesses." Corporations that keep the city productive. "And obviously corporate activity extends to economic development, the growth of the community," commented Billiot.

More growth could come if the airport had longer and wider runways to better serve corporate aircraft. Billiot explained, "They're not so limited on the runway in good weather, but in bad weather they're kind of prohibited to coming in here with a 5000 foot runway. A longer runway is definitely safer."

Right now taxiway construction and resurfacing are progressing. The city is now ready to seek more funding. The process begins with a justification survey. Deputy City Manager Victoria LaFollet-Koenig said, "This survey is a critical component to getting our runway expansion fund in order and ultimately released so we can make the expansion."

"For this project to proceed, both FAA and TxDot Aviation require the city to conduct a survey of current, future and potential users of the facility," according to a cover letter written by City Manager Jim Jeffers.

The desire is to meet the needs of corporations so they'll consider investing in Nacogdoches. Billiot said, "They're going to be interested in doing that only if they have the logistical structure and the markets that they need for that deal. We need a lot of economic development. The community needs to support that. The administration really needs to support that."

Besides a longer runway, airport users say a master terminal is needed. Conference rooms and even gift shops are placed there to better serve visitors. Right now there's no terminal. A building once used for that purpose remains vacant.