Lanett fire chief hopeful airport will open Nov. 1

Published 7:32 am Thursday, July 14, 2022

At Tuesday’s work session, Fire & EMS Chief Johnny Allen gave the council an update on what has been going on at the Lanett Airport.

“Things are moving in a very positive way,” he said. “The contractor has been meeting with our consultant, Goodwyn, Mills & Cawood. There’s a punch list to be completed, and a few things are holding us up. Some things have to be done before we can open.”

There’s a legal issue involving air space at one end of the runway and a possible erosion issue at the opposite end. These are matters that can be resolved.

Allen said the city has been getting some input from a fixed base operator (FBO) in getting the airport up and running.

A fixed base operator can assist in areas such as setting up operations, seeing that fuel needs are taken care of and possibly starting a flight school.

Council Member Malone asked Allen if the FBO would take the place of an airport manager.

“No,” he said. “In my opinion, the city will need an on-site, professional airport manager.”

Council Member Tucker asked what was going on with the hangars.

“People are contacting us about them,” Allen said. “They are excited about a 5,400-foot runway and wanting to be a part of what will be going on here.”

Allen said there must be guidelines and standards to govern the construction of hangars.

“We have the space for 16 to 18 of them,” he said, “but we don’t want a hodge-podge look. We want the hangars developed according to a master plan,”

Allen said there’s a surprising amount of aviation activity within a 40-mile radius of Lanett and that the city should be part of it.

“There are tax breaks and revenue for the city when planes are based here,” he said. “We are at the point where we need to move on these hangars.”

The hangars will be built by private companies who will be basing planes at the airport. The city is responsible for the design standards and will lease the space.

Tucker asked Allen what he saw as an opening date.

“I am looking at Nov. 1,” he said, “but there will be a difference in actually opening it and having a very active place.”

One issue that needs to be resolved involves fuel. An existing tank for propeller-driven craft has been refurbished and should meet the needs for conventional aircraft. A separate tank will be needed for jet fuel. The best option might be to rent a tanker truck.

“We will do what’s most practical and what’s most economical,” he said. “The fixed base operator that has been working with us is really excited about the future of Lanett Airport.”

Allen said the structure was in place for a new airport manager to work with.

“We have a good group of department heads,” he said. “They will have a good group to work with.”