JUNCTION CITY — A federal grant could remove a stumbling block to projects airport officials say they've had to put on hold even as business has boomed.
Stuart Powell Field will receive a $100,000 Federal Aviation Administration grant to complete the preliminary work for a runway safety area. The grant will fund environmental studies and the first phase of engineering work.
Airport namesake Stuart Powell said the current runway safety area — a buffer space at the end of the runway — is about 130 feet short of the 300-foot minimum.
Powell, who is his 45th year on what is now called the Danville-Boyle County Airport Board, has been frustrated by the impact the relatively new requirement has had on money for other projects. He said the safety zone is the "latch-key" that will unlock support for needed projects like a new fuel system, at least 10 additional private hangars and a second corporate hangar.
The next step will include land acquisition and work such as grading, both things that will require more funding. The airport board has tried to acquire adjacent land to the east through a land swap, but the plans have never materialized.
Despite the holding pattern for some of the work, Powell said the facility has only been getting more traffic.
"We're in a growth mode," Powell said, adding that since the Airport Board took over in 2009 as the fixed base operator fuel sales and flights have doubled.
Powell's ability to garner federal funds to build up the airport are well documented. In addition to several smaller improvements, such as runway resurfacing, the airport added a new administration and corporate office building not long ago.
In part due to its location, Powell said the airport's has developed a strong reputation among people who fly north-south routes and have increasingly stopped there to fuel up. In addition to private pilots in the region, the airport is also used frequently by the business communities in Boyle and surrounding counties.
The relationship with the Air Evac medical helicopter company has also continued to grow since they located a base at the airport in 2008 and subsequently expanded their operation.
Powell said Air Evac is planning to use the site for it's northeast regional maintenance center serving the area from Pennsylvania to Tennessee. He said the airport board is in negotiations with Air Evac about making the airport one of the company's training centers.
Kentucky State Police is also considering basing one of its helicopter units at the airport.
"Those things will bring more people and more jobs, but they also emphasize the importance of the airport," Powell said.
The next big influx of planes from across the country will come in October for the vice presidential debate. While some media and political staff will fly into larger cities, many with private planes will come to the airport near Junction City as they did for the 2000 vice presidential debate.
Powell said he met with the Secret Service last week about plans for the event.
Members of the airport board also traveled to Louisville last week for the Kentucky Aviation Association's annual conference, where the airport was one of three featured. Powell is proud the airfield he has been a part of for much of his life has received recognition as one of the leading general aviation airports in the region.