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Lynchburg Regional Airport director talks capital improvement projects

See story at The News & Advance...The Lynchburg Regional Airport will be busy this year with several capital improvement projects underway on its 870 acres.

Airport Director Andrew LaGala said some of these projects have been scheduled for years due to maintenance requirements by the Federal Aviation Administration. For other projects, he said the airport has been fiscally responsible on how and when it’s done because he always wants to make sure all projects are revenue-producing.

“We don’t use local taxes to operate the airport; it’s strictly on revenue and expenses. So I have to look at making sure any money I put out to build and develop brings back money,” he said. “So a lot of times you could have multiple projects all at one time, some that are scheduled that are federally funded and state funded.”

He said rarely does the airport carry debt.

“I look at what we can handle and how the money flows because everything is pay as you go. We have very low debt at the airport,” he said.

The airport is served by one airline, American Airlines, and it has approximately 14 flights to and from the Charlotte, N.C. hub each day.

At the midfield ramp, the airport recently completed a $2 million ramp overlay. New asphalt was laid, meaning the ramp won’t need to be seal-coated for another 20 years.

The midfield ramp is a public ramp for all airplanes, including general aviation aircrafts. Generally speaking, general aviation refers to private-transport or recreational aircraft, not commercial aircraft.

Another airport project that’s just about complete is a $9 million federally and state-funded project on 15 acres, where new parking will be added.

“What I’m trying to do is I’m trying to target a maintenance repair and overhaul, and I’m really going to try to work with the airlines to see if they want to build a large maintenance repair facility here,” he said. “The Liberty School of Aeronautics has an incredible flight program and when those pilots come out of that program, they pipeline right into American [Airlines], Envoy [Airlines] and Piedmont [Airlines] and all of them have an incredible maintenance program.

So why not keep people here in Virginia and working? In building these large facilities, you’ll have a lot more people working here with great paying jobs.”

Under construction this year will be a second 14,000-square-foot hangar next to the existing Banker Aviation hangar on the highly active midfield ramp.

Across Virginia, there is a “complete shortage” of hangars to park aircraft, LaGala said.

“I’ve got a waiting list on the T hangars. I already have them full. I haven’t even put a shovel in the ground and I already have a list of people that want to bring their airplanes here,” he said. “So there’s a supply and demand there and there’s opportunity. So we need to make sure we’re in a position both financially and staffing- and capacity-wise to be able to develop that.”

The airport just completed a new 20-year agreement with Freedom Aviation, which is going to build a 19,600-square-foot hangar as well, and the airport is going to extend a ramp all the way to its hangar.

LaGala said the general aviation community has been asking for another set of T hangars to store their private aircrafts in. The new hangar will fit between 10 and 12 aircraft and is a $2 million project.

“Those are really lacking around here and they’ve been asking for it for a while and that’s what the community wants,” he said.

Additionally, the airport is building a $1 million run-up pad used for airplane staging for one of the runways which will help with operations and keeping air traffic moving.

Next year, the airport plans to rehabilitate the entire primary runway, which will cost $14 million to lay new payment down. The runway will be closed for a couple days to one week, LaGala said. He added the runway is nearing the end of its approved end of use. The FAA calls for a rehabilitation every 20 years and the runway is about 16 or 17 years old.

When a runway is rehabilitated, usually next in sequence is the parallel taxiway, which runs parallel to the runway, because they’re about the same age. The airport plans to rehabilitate that in 2025.

Commerce park development underway
The City of Lynchburg and Campbell County have been collaborating with the Lynchburg Regional Airport for a decade on the future planning of the Airport Commerce Park Regional Development. The GO Virginia State Board approved $190,000 in state money for the project.

The Airport Commerce Park Regional Development will advance the Airport Commerce Park site from a Virginia Business Ready Sites Program characterization of Tier 2 to Tier 3 to strengthen competitive position in the global marketplace and attract advanced manufacturing and technology, with a specific focus on aerospace. The location is strategic to accommodate all modes (air, ground and rail) of transportation for business development.

“Site development is critical for the City of Lynchburg, and this funding will help develop a site that is in a great location for industrial growth,” Marjette Upshur, director of the City of Lynchburg’s Office of Economic Development & Tourism said. “The site is road, rail, and air accessible and will positively position Lynchburg and Campbell County for a number of opportunities for business, industrial and aeronautical uses.”

She said the site is one of just two city-owned industrial properties of more than 100 acres.

Nina Rezai, economic development manager for Campbell County, said the industrial property represents regional collaboration between Lynchburg, the airport and Campbell County.