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The Springfield-Branson National Airport held its annual “State of the Airport” address Thursday. Despite a decade of distress for the airline industry, one local official says rising stock prices and recent airlines mergers show signs the industry is stabilizing, and that the airport exemplifies this upswing. KSMU’s Samuel Crowe attended the address and has this report.
Airport Director of Aviation Brian Weiler (Wyler) says he’s excited about the future of the airport, which saw over 750,000 passengers in 2012, more than 20,000 from the year before. He first pointed out that safety is the biggest part of airport operations, and it’s one that the Springfield Branson National Airport passed with flying colors.
“I think nothing demonstrates that better than having eight consecutive years of no discrepancies in our annual FAA inspection,” Weiler said.
According the Weiler, the airport is working to improve the customer experience, complete with upgraded Wi-Fi, a coffee shop, and a new website and smart phone app.
Weiler says the airport is also looking into a possible connection to Charlotte, North Carolina, which he says would open up several routes to the Mid-Eastern United States.
Locally, Weiler says the airport plays a big role in the growth of Springfield - it employs over 2000 people - and that means a payroll of about $60 million.
“If you look at a conservative rollover effect in the community of about three times, that’s almost $200 million a year in economic impact into this region. And we think it can get bigger,” Weiler said.
Weiler says one area the airport needs to improve in is general aviation, 80 percent of which is done for business purposes. The airport currently has no available hangars for more locally based aircraft, but Weiler says a general aviation redevelopment project is underway and awaiting possible grant money from MoDOT. This 20 year master study would add 50 more gates, create a new hangar development area, improve entrance and traffic flow, and remove outdated and unused facilities.
For KSMU News, I’m Samuel Crowe.