Carter gives update on Lanett airport

Published 11:30 am Thursday, August 24, 2023

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VALLEY — At the Monday evening meeting of the Valley Lions Club, Lanett Airport Manager Richard Carter talked about the continuing work that’s been taking place there since the new 5,400-foot runway was cleared for landings last November. An estimated $20 million was spent in building an entirely new runway to replace one that was some 3,165 feet in length. Any runway that’s at least one mile in length can land business class jets.

“That’s why the new runway was built,” Carter said. “It’s a place where commercial jets can land without having to land in LaGrange or Auburn and having people driving here from there.”

The largest plane to land there thus far is a Dassault Falcon 900. It’s a French-built corporate trijet that can seat up to 18 people and has a wingspan of 63 feet.

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Carter said the Lanett Municipal Airport compares favorably with the airport in Auburn. It’s some 200 feet longer but the one in Auburn is somewhat wider. While the runway in Lanett is 75 feet wide, the one in Auburn is around 100 feet in width.

“Business class jets can easily land and take off on our runway,” Carter said.

There’s still some work to do on the taxiway and the runway apron. Project consultant Goodwyn, Mills & Cawood has the plans for that. Three’s a need for fencing and the leasing of tie-down spaces. Work will be taking place in October to refurbish the existing big box hangar already at the airport. Up to 10 planes can be stored there. There’s plenty of space to build more hangars, and there are plans to have an access road to the airport from Phillips Road. Carter said he was pleased with the turnout at a recent ribbon cutting at the airport. It was hosted by the Greater Valley Chambers of Commerce on Aug. 10.

“Senator Katie Britt and members of her staff were there,” he said. “We also had representatives from the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and ALDOT (Alabama Department of Transportation).

For aviation projects like the one in Lanett, the FAA provides 90 percent of the funding, ALDOT five percent and the local government five percent. Former Senator Richard Shelby played a key role in securing the funding that went into building the new runway.

Carter said the city can make money with the sales of aviation fuel and with the leasing of tie-down spaces.

There’s a flight school making use of the runway. Student pilots are frequently taking off and landing planes there.

“There’s a lot going on right now,” Carter said. “The big box hanger needs to be painted before we fill it up. There’s lots of grass to be cut.”

Some asphalt will be going down near the big box hanger and some drainage work needs to be done to reroute the water flow following the rainy days.

“It’s a beautiful place out there, and we want to have people coming to community events,” Carter said. “We have thought of having movie nights.”

Once an access road is built to the site from Phillips Road, a spur road leading off it could lead to an area between the runway and I-85. This would be an ideal site for aviation-related businesses to develop.

Carter expects a lot of work to be taking place around the runway in the coming years.

“A lot has been done to have us where we are right now, but there’s more to be done,” he said.

Carter said the airport is an especially beautiful place at night when the runway lights are on. They are pilot operated and can be switched on when a plane is coming in for a landing. “Things are really going to pick up at this airport when we get the fuel out there,” he said.

The original airport opened in 1959. It was lengthened over the years to 3,165 feet. That was the length in 2018 when the airport was closed to build a new runway. The first phase extended it to 4,400 feet. A second phase lengthened it to 5,400 feet. Carter credits the late Oscar Crawley for having the vision to build a better airport in Lanett. This was a long-range goal he pursued when he was serving as the city’s mayor. Shelby was very supportive of these kinds of projects in his home state and was able to get the much-needed funding to get the work done.

Now that Lanett has a regional airport, this can help relieve air traffic coming into and leaving the Auburn airport, which is at full capacity right now.