IN FULL FLIGHT
With the majority of renovation projects and improvements complete, the Port of South Louisiana’s Executive Regional Airport is now fully equipped to handle both the business and leisure needs of passengers.
In 2011, officials from the Port of South Louisiana took a good thing — a fully-functional local airport efficiently run by St. John the Baptist Parish — and plotted ways to make it even better.
The end result: the Port of South Louisiana’s Executive Regional Airport that you see today. It’s a facility that has undergone a massive makeover in the last five to six years, transforming into an ideal 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.
“Aviation is a tool for developing local economies, and this tool has been introduced into the River Parishes region in a way never experienced before,” said Airport Director Vincent Caire. “The old saying that, ‘time is money’ applies here for both small businesses and major corporations.
“The old airfield was quite successful, which is the reason the Port became interested in it in the first place,” Caire said. “The point to emphasize here is that the Port quickly became aware that the airport could serve the entire River Parishes Region including a number of larger economic development initiatives to come in the near future outside of the Parish. Responding to this need successfully became the mission of the airport.”
Upon acquiring the operational rights to the airport in 2011, Port of South Louisiana staff identified improvements, renovations and additions necessary to fully-utilize the facility for the clientele they intended to serve — those doing business in the area — and set a scheduled course of action to implement those changes. It is an overall vision known by the FAA as an “Airport Layout Plan.”
The first phase — which was completed and dedicated in the summer of 2013 — centered upon expanding the 4,000-foot runway to more than 5,000 feet so it could accommodate larger private aircraft. The Port also extended the taxiway parallel to the runway. From there, the airport’s fueling stations received an upgrade and installed a state-of-the-art weather tracking system.
Not long after, in 2015, the Port officially opened a brand-new terminal, which offered passengers and pilots plenty of lounge and conference areas to either plan the return flight home, hold a business meeting or simply relax while executives take care of their dealings in the Port District. Rental car services along with refueling options were also added in the terminal, along with general vending.
This year, the airport opened its first public transient hangar —conveniently named “Hangar 1,” referring to its status as the first non-private hangar on the field — 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 $700,000 hangar protects aircraft from the array of dubious weather found in South Louisiana and features storage units for passenger property and restrooms. Caire affectionately calls the public hangar an “Aircraft Hotel.”
Phases of the airport plan are being accomplished, and Caire said improvements will always continue at the facility as the demands and traveler’s needs change with time. For instance, transitioning from incandescent to LED lighting in the aircraft operating areas, as well as larger capital projects like additional public hangar space —tweaks both minor and major impovements, all done to attract more travelers.
“The traffic is obviously increasing,” Caire said. “As for quantifying it, I can tell you that new traffic patterns are continuously developing. Business aircraft don’t operate on a schedule like commercial airlines, but use by corporate jets will continue to increase over time. The outstanding feature of this airport clearly demonstrated thus far, is that it is small enough to be personal to both crews and passengers, and large enough to support the majority of business jets on a service level equal to larger airports.”
By William Kalec