Lanett airport prepares for grand opening

Published 9:00 am Tuesday, February 7, 2023

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LANETT — There’s lots of landing and taking off at the Lanett Municipal Airport these days. It’s training going on from flight schools in Auburn, Columbus and LaGrange.

“On days when we have really nice weather,”said Airport Manager Richard Carter, “we’re having around 40 take offs and landings.”

The 5,400-foot runway is an excellent place for young pilots to practice landings and then going right back up into the wild blue yonder.

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Carter is a long-time aviation enthusiast and loves spending every work day at Lanett’s new airport and the opportunity he has to see it grow into something really special.

He has an office inside the terminal and on display there is lots of aviation memorabilia. There’s a wooden replica of an airplane propeller and models of such historic aircraft as a biplane the U.S. Navy once used, a Bell 206 helicopter and a  Cessna 210, a long-time favorite of private pilots.

“My daughter knew what she could get me for Christmas when she was growing up,” he said.

Carter said there’s a tremendous amount of interest on the part of private plane owners on being able to base a plane at the Lanett airport. “People come by the office to talk to me, or I talk to them on the phone almost every day,” he said.

Along with an ultra-nice terminal, the airport has a large box hangar and a T hangar that was at the airport when it closed for construction of the new runway in 2018. The box hangar is an ideal place for the maintenance and storage of planes. It’s some 8,200 square feet in size, and Carter thinks it would be aa great location for an aviation-related business or a maintenance area. Next to it is the T hangar. It’s about 70 feet wide and 250 feet long. It’s set up to store 10 planes, five to each side. There are office areas on each side of the building.

Nearby is plenty of space where new hangars can be built. They city leases the land, and the plane owners pay for the space.

“I have no doubt that when we get some hangars built here they will fill up rapidly,” Carter said.

“The pilots who are landing planes here just rave about the new surface of the runway,” Carter said. “One of them radioed that it was the smoothest surface he’d ever landed on anywhere in Alabama.”

The runway actually drops some nine feet from one end to the other. It’s 615 feet above sea level on the southwest side and 624 feet above sea level on the northeast side. The fact that it seems perfectly level when one moves from one end to the other is a testament to the job that was done by contractor Evergreen Erosion Control of Opelika and engineering consultant Goodwn, Mills & Cawood of Montgomery.

“Everyone I talk to about this airport tells me we have a real gem here in Lanett,” Carter said.

Though the runway is finished and in excellent condition, the airport remains a work in progress.Work that needs to be done this year includes reconstructing the pavement in the taxi lane to the box hangar, rehabbing pavement along the runway apron and putting up a new security fence. Some site grading and paving near the terminal is set of 2024. The apron will be expanded in 2025. A An automated weather observing station (AWOS) and a Precision Approach Path Indicator (PAPI) system will be installed in 2026.

An AWOS system is owned and controlled by the Federal Aviation Administration (AWOS). A PAPI system consists of four light boxes arranged perpendicular to the edge of the runway. It projects a pattern of red and white lights that provide visual approach slope information.

“It’s exciting to see this coming together,” Carter said. “There’s a great opportunity for corporate aircraft to be based here. Some industries are looking at having planes here.”

The Lanett airport can help relieve congestion that’s been taking place at the airport in Auburn. “I think it will be a good place to come in for game day weekends,” Carter said. “The Auburn airport is incredibly busy on weekends when Auburn has home football games. Some of that traffic can be directed this way. We just need to have some kind of shuttle service to get people to and from the football game.”

Carter said some aviation-related businesses are looking at locating on the area between the new runway and I-85. They like the visibility near the Interstate.

“There’s still some dirt to move around out here, and we need to improve road access,” Carter said.

The main entrance off Cusseta could be paved once the Phillips Road project is completed near Huguley Elementary School. There’s also the possibility of having a new access road off Phillips Road. It would be a lot closer to the Interstate.

“This place is beautiful at night when the runway lights are on,” Carter said.

The city is planing on having a grand opening at the airport, probably in March when the weather is warmer.