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Year in Review 2014: Southwestern Illinois

St. Louis Regional Airport sees commercial opportunities ahead

    Special to the Illinois Business Journal
    St. Louis Regional Airport hosted a wide range of private, corporate and military flights this past year.
    Besides accommodating close to 900 training flights for Scott Air Force Base, the airport welcomed Vice President Joe Biden on Air Force 2 and securely provided for the C-17 that flew in early with his full motorcade.
    “Supporting the Air Force Training mission is a big priority for us,” said David Miller, airport manager.
    Because of St. Louis Regional’s location, flight crews from SAFB can accomplish four traffic pattern operations in the same time they can complete only three operations at other airports — including SAFB.
    The airport maintains ILS and GPS navigation approaches as well as the only non-directional beacon, backcourse ILS, and circling VOR approaches in the region. SAFB flight crews can use these to practice for landings in third world countries. Planes and helicopters take off at SAFB, touch down at Regional, switch pilots or crew members and do it again. The unique intersecting runway layout gives instructors the choice of going with or against the wind on every takeoff or landing.
    To keep the facilities state-of-the-art, safety improvements were made on runway 17-35. Work included leveling the flight path and removing trees so the runway continues to be big enough to land any plane built. Federal improvements were made on the air traffic control tower. Also, the airport purchased an additional snowplow, this one with a 22-foot blade.
    “Since Regional is the only major airport in the area completely above the region’s flood plains we take the all-weather commitment very seriously,” said Miller. “We get snow off the runway as fast as it comes down.”
    A highlight of 2014 was the annual Fly-In the last Saturday in September with more than 70 aircraft, a car show with 320 entrants from around the Midwest, and remote control planes. Regular emergency service training events continued to be an important part of operations as well.
    The 600-acre business park did well in 2014. Anchor tenant West Star Aviation was selected as Professional Pilot magazine’s preferred Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul (MRO) provider in the United States. Both national and international business have grown along with the recognition.
    This past year, West Star added a 47,000-square-foot maintenance hanger, a 14,000-square-foot wood shop and 6,000-square-foot accessory repair shop at the East Alton facility, which is its national headquarters. The company currently employs about 300 in East Alton and is planning additional expansion in 2015.
    There has been non-aeronautical growth in the airport business park as well. The Airport Authority recently received FAA approval for commercial development on the Northwest corner of the airport where Wayside Estates subdivision used to be.
    “St. Louis Regional Airport has had a solid year and the commissioners have put a lot of effort into setting the stage for continued growth,” said Miller.  “We expect 2015 to be an exciting year with many opportunities for commercial development.”