Bizav in Chicagoland

CHICAGO - On a recent visit to the Chicago region, airport business sat with officials at Landmark Aviation (formerly DB Aviation) at the Waukegan Regional Airport, and airport managers at both the Chicago Executive and Dupage airports to get a sense of...

“We reduced our budget significantly in response to that. We also reduced staffing significantly, especially at the manager and director level; that was our response.”

Bird says the airport is starting to see some growth, and that the industry has hit bottom. “Business activity is clearly tracking with the recovery; we’re a lot more optimistic than we were a year ago at this time,” he adds.

Development initiatives

Hangar space at Landmark is some 85 percent full, relates Lewis. DB Aviation completed a development of hangars two years ago, and the company has two more parcels of land of 90,000 square feet that can be developed.

Waukegan Airport has plans to extend its primary runway to 7,000 feet, plus an additional 1,000-foot per end for displaced threshold. “That really allows us to bring in larger aircraft that can tanker fuel and fly further,” explains Lewis.

Rouleau says some 98 percent of hangar space at Chicago Executive is occupied airport-wide. The airport recently completed a 48-unit six building T-hangar development (a Fulfab product) at a cost of some $2.6 million, and a $5 million, 24,500-square foot corporate hangar has also sprung up on the field; the privately funded facility will house five jet aircraft.

Comments Rouleau, “Because of the economy, this was just a great time to build, and cost of materials are fairly cheap. We had 15 contractors respond to bids for the T-hangar development, and we recently received bid openings for a self-fueling facility to support that development.

“Development is still going on in this economy; in fact, if you want to build, this is a great time to do it.”

On the marketing front, Rouleau says that changing the airport’s name in 2006 from Palwaukee Municipal to Chicago Executive has been a very positive thing. “We looked at different things in terms of branding the airport, and Chicago Executive said what we are.” he explains. “We are not a jetport; we are not a recreational airport; executive means we are all-inclusive.”

At Dupage, the airport has recently completed a master plan. “We have a lot of green fields inside the fence,” relates Bird. “We plan to continue to develop and grow our corporate hangar facilities.

“We are surrounded by compatible development; it’s a pretty mature facility airside, and we are looking at growing the corporate sector over the next decade, which is the highest yield customer we have.”

Dupage is also planning on extending one runway, giving the airport some operational flexibility so that when another runway is closed for maintenance, it’ll be able to shift all of the traffic to the newly extended runway, says Bird. The project will be paid for with cash reserves.

On being an airport that is also the FBO and fuel provider on the field, Bird says it provides the ability to control the product more directly than if it were relying on a typical FBO.

Bird’s concern for the near term is the possibility of another recession. “It’s going to take us years to get back to the prerecession levels of activity that we had in ’06,” he explains. “The climb back is going to be slow.”

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