AIRPORT EVOLUTION

In less than a decade, the Port of South Louisiana Executive Regional Airport has undergone a radical transformation — one that will continue with the recent announcements of new public hangars and other upgrades.

The Port of South Louisiana’s original “Master Plan” — a multi-phased effort begun in 2011 that identified improvements, renovations and additions necessary to fully-utilize the St. John Airport for the clientele they intended to serve — is complete.

But that doesn’t mean progress has been grounded. Not even close.

In mid-October 2018, the Port approved several initiatives to add new facilities or improve existing ones in a continuing effort to make the Port of South Louisiana Executive Regional Airport an attractive alternative landing/takeoff spot from the airport in Kenner for private aircraft travelers seeking to check on their business operations in and around the Port.

The highlight of these green-lit projects calls for the construction of 10 “T-Hangars,” all of which will be housed in a single building. This joint partnership project between the Port and the Aviation Section of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development will outfit the airport with hangar space that’s available for the public to lease through the Port — a benefit that wasn’t available as of two years ago, since every other hangar on the grounds at that time was privately owned.

These 10 T-Hangars are scheduled to be ready for occupancy by April 2019.

“The benefit and amenity (of these hangars) is that they are for individual use and offer privacy, in contrast to larger “Box” hangars that house multiple aircraft together without any separation,” said Airport Director Vincent Caire. “The T-Hangars will be owned by the Port and leased on terms convenient to aircraft owners flying not only in the River Parishes, but throughout the greater New Orleans area. These T-Hangars are perfectly positioned aircraft storage facilities for businesses in or between the cities of New Orleans and Baton Rouge.”

The T-Hangar announcement comes on the heels of another hangar addition. In 2017, the airport opened its first public transient hangar — conveniently named “Hangar 1” — which is suited for the aircraft of daily and overnight visitors and equipped to handle every foreseeable need of the traveler and flight crew. The $600,000 hangar protects aircraft from the array of dubious weather found in South Louisiana and features storage units for passenger property and restrooms. At the time, Caire affectionately called the public hangar, an “Aircraft Hotel.”

Every dollar spent on the airport — be it maintenance, capital projects or grant funding from the FAA or LaDOTD-Aviation Section — is an investment in the local economy,” Caire said. “The easiest way to put it in perspective is to think of it this way: An airport is listed in a national directory used by pilots, flight crews and passengers. That book is called the Airport Facility Directory. This listing is published by the FAA and advertises operational improvements of every public airport in the United States. Our improvements and services are added to the directory and, as a result, use of this airport will increase over time.

“This doesn’t happen overnight,” Caire continued, “but as pilots and flight crews become familiar with these published improvements, our proximity to the River Parishes, New Orleans and Baton Rouge becomes an alternative to other airports where aircraft operations are less convenient to ground locations, and far more expensive.”

Beyond the 10 hangars, Port officials also set in motion efforts earlier this year to improve their existing security network — specifically to add more perimeter fencing along with more security cameras — and to extend the taxiway leading to the runway.

Currently, the Airport features two taxiways — one on the north end of the airport, one on the south end of the airport — that individually measured less than half the distance of the 5,150-foot runway. The extension bridged the two taxiways into a single access path measuring the same distance as the runway. During the construction phase of this project, flight operations continued without delay or operational hinderance.   
“Convenience and time savings,” Caire answered when asked about the pluses of taxiway work. “For a business airport, a well-planned taxiway layout reduces the operating cost of an aircraft on the ground by providing more direct access to the runway, preventing traffic congestion on the ground.”

In late October 2018, Port of South Louisiana Executive Director Paul Aucoin announced in a statement a few airport projects that are planned for the next 15 months. The aforementioned runway — whose extension five years ago was a phase in the Port’s original “Master Plan” once it gained day-to-day operations of the airport — will be completely resurfaced. In addition, excessive tree growth north of the airport will be trimmed as to not to interfere will takeoffs and landings. The project will be funded by the FAA and the La. DOTD.