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p12 airportBy RITA DUCKWORTH
St. Louis Downtown Airport retained its spot as the third-largest general aviation airport in Illinois despite a dip in the total number of takeoffs and landings in 2018.
“Operations have been down nationwide due to fuel prices and overall economic factors,” Airport Director Erick Dahl said.
The airport is one of five enterprises operated by Bi-State Development.
“St. Louis Downtown Airport is an economic force for the Metro East and the entire St. Louis region,” says Bi-State’s spokesperson, Jerry Vallely.
The airport, located in Cahokia and Sauget, has maintained full capacity of tenants in its hangars. Two new hangars were added in 2018, with more to come.
“The hangars we planned to build last year were put on hold due to increased steel costs,” says Dahl. “Now there’s a demand for larger hangars than we originally planned, so we’ll be building five instead of seven.”
In 2018 Ideal Aviation, a longtime FBO (fixed base operator) at the airport sold part of its operation to Jet Aviation. “The addition of Jet Aviation has resulted in a somewhat larger FBO presence at the airport,” says Dahl. “They’ve acquired some clients and moved them here.”
Ideal Aviation is still active at the airport with flight instruction for the general public. North American Helicopter also conducts flight training, and Saint Louis University uses the airport to train students to become professional pilots. Reaching out to educators to increase this facet of the airport is one of Bi-State’s focuses. Flight education currently accounts for about half of the airport’s traffic.
A $1.2 million project to widen taxiway intersections was rebid and successfully completed in 2018. The airport can now accommodate planes as large as a 757.
This spring, construction will begin to widen the airport’s entrance at Curtiss Steinberg Drive. New signage will be erected throughout the airport property to direct travelers and visitors. A more prominent sign will be placed at the airport’s entrance. Less obvious to visitors, but important nonetheless, the runways and taxiways will be repainted to meet new FAA regulations.
“We look forward to the airport’s continued growth and being a leading voice in business aviation,” Vallely, the Bi-State spokesman, said.