United States Geological Survey geotechnical work yielding valuable resources

Published 10:30 am Saturday, April 8, 2023

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LANETT — The Kiwanis Club of Valley had this week’s Wednesday noon hour meeting at the Lanett Regional Airport. Airport Manager Richard Carter met with them in the large lobby area inside the terminal to talk to them  about the ongoing efforts to get the newly expand airport off to a good start. The airport has an entirely new 5,400-foot runway replacing on that was approximately 3,150 feet in length. It’s plenty long enough now to land business class jets.

At one point during the meeting, members of the club walked outside the terminal to see a helicopter take off while carrying a complex instrument package underneath it.

These helicopter flights have been taking place across the state of Alabama. Live Wire Aviation out of Florida is doing some geotechnical work for a Canadian company. The goal is to find anything of value that may in the ground up to 850 feet deep. This includes everything from water to metallic substances that can be mined.

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Sites around that state that look promising from the aerial survey could later have some test boring done to determine if mining is a viable option.

This kind of aerial technology was developed in Denmark. Underground water would most likely be the main useful substance that would be located in this area.

In recent weeks, the research team has been operating out of airports in Anniston, Alexander City and right now Lanett.

The work is being done at the behest of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Airport Manager Richard Carter told members of the club that he was well pleased with the turnout at a recent open house at the airport. “There were so many children here who had the opportunity to sit inside airplanes and visualize flight,” he said. “I would like to see us get young people involved in aviation. It would be great to have a flight school here at the airport and for Inspire Academy to have a course in aircraft mechanics.”

Carter likes to talk about the great job that was done in building the new runway. “The airport was closed for several years,” he said. “Plans were to open it with a 4,400-foot runway, but Senator Richard Shelby came up with some funding that would extend it another 1,000 feet. It’s very significant to have a runway that’s over a mile in length. Getting it out to 5,400 feet does that. It was worth the extra construction time to get us to more than a mile in length. We have had some pretty big planes landing out here. We’ve been getting all kinds of compliments on how smooth the runway is.”

Work that will be taking place in the immediate years includes rehabbing the existing box hangar, putting in new security fencing and resurfacing the apron and taxiway leading to the terminal.

The present access road will soon be paved by the Chambers County Highway Department.

Carter said that an important need is to build a new road to the airport off Phillips Road. This would make it much easier to reach the airport by a truck or car from I-85.

For the present, it’s important to have a leasing program for hangar and tie-down spaces for planes that could be staying there. Carter said the airport has already brought in a good bit of money with the sales of aviation fuel for propeller planes. The real money will be coming in when the airport is set up to sell jet fuel.

Carter has had a lifelong love of aviation. He’s a licensed pilot and has flown planes and helicopters for years.

From his own experience he knows that pilots want to be met and made to feel welcome when landing an aircraft. “I make it a point to go out and meet the pilot when he has landed here,” he said. “I want to shake their hand and welcome them to Lanett Regional. I know how important it is to make a good first impression. It’s great that we have the Chambers County Development Authority in this building. You never know how influential a person who just got off a plane can be. The CCDA can take them into a big conference room in this terminal, introduce them to our key local officials and they can talk about how Chambers County is the perfect place for their new industry or business.”

Carter thinks big. “I want to see jet planes from Amazon, FedEx and UPS landing here,” he said. “I would like to see aviation management courses taught here. There’s a strong demand right now for pilots and aviation mechanics. I would like to see young people considering careers in those fields. People who have come here tell me how beautiful it is here at the airport. I think this place is really going to take off once we get the access road in off of Phillips Road.”

Carter told members of the Kiwanis Club that there’s an opportunity right now to get some of the air traffic going to Auburn home football games. “The airport in Auburn is so busy during football season,” he said. “If we had some kind of shuttle taking people to the games and back, I’m sure some of those planes would like to land here. You can’t find a better backup airport to Auburn than what we have right here. The area near the airport off Exit 77 is a great place for a restaurant.”

Carter is looking at ways to get more and more local people to come out and see the airport. “I really liked the way the kids took to the open house,” he said. “We want to have more events like that. I’d also like for us to have movie nights out here this summer.”