Net Zero In The Fox Valley

Outagamie County Regional Airport embarks on a net-zero environmental impact mission, incorporating 'smart' building systems and setting a green standard for general aviation support facilities


APPLETON, WI — The Outagamie County Regional Airport (ATW), the fourth-busiest commercial airport in Wisconsin located just west of Appleton and serving the western Fox Cities, was one of ten airports selected by FAA to participate in its Sustainable Master Plan Program.

On the verge of completing a major repurposing of airport land to accomodate a healthy general aviation environment, the airport has invested heavily in infrastructure planning and development in recent years. Now, ATW has broken ground on a new FBO terminal and hangar development expected to be complete in time for EAA’s AirVenture in Oshkosh, WI in late July, 2013.

Comments Marty Lenss, airport director at ATW for five years, “Shortly after I took the role as director, we went through a core value process and identified sustainability as a major component.

“We started by looking at the ‘low-hanging fruit’ at the commercial terminal space. We put up a 50kW photovoltaic system on the terminal roof, and we installed a 12-panel solar heating system on the terminal that provides almost 100 percent of our domestic hot water supply.

“So we had an early approach into efforts related to sustainability. That’s what spurred us to get involved in FAA’s sustainable master plan pilot program.”

As a part of that process, the airport has targeted the commercial terminal to be 70 percent more efficient than it is today by 2030.

“Then we started to take a look at GA,” explains Lenss. “We have put $15 million into infrastructure — taxiways, roadways, aprons — to support FBO operations on the south side of the field.

“We asked, can we get to net-zero? Let’s go for it.”

Mead & Hunt partnered with the Sustainable Engineering Group (SEG) for the design and energy modeling for the new FBO terminal. Moving ahead, the bulk of the general aviation activities will transition away from the commercial terminal area, where the FBO is currently located, to the southside of the field.

“We want that separation between commercial and GA operations,” says Lenss. “The strategy will help with security and safety issues, and also allow for further growth in both areas of operation.

“So this is really a long-term land use planning initiative, with environmental sustainability very top-of-mind.”

Business Drives Growth

Airport fuel numbers are up over previous years at ATW, and things are good currently, relates Lenss. The Tailwind Flight Center, colocated with the airport-owned Platinum Flight Center FBO, is very active.

“Some three-quarters of our business is in the GA private sector — and a big portion of that has to do with Gulfstream’s presence here,” remarks Lenss. The Appleton Gulfstream facility is responsible for providing major service and modifications to Gulfstream business jets. The facility specializes in providing custom configurations; Appleton is responsible for the final phase of manufacturing for Gulfstream G450 and G550 business jets.

While the FBO is airport-owned, it is managed by a private company, Express Airport Services. “I have had a number of phone calls to talk about the model,” says Lenss. “Some airports have done different things regarding their FBOs; different models from traditional and more hands-off to a proprietary exclusive relationship where the airport actually owns and operates the FBO.

“We are kind of a hybrid between the two; it’s not proprietary exclusive — it’s not County employees; it’s a private sector business running it on our behalf.

“For us, it’s a model that has worked very well thus far. It’s definitely not a model for everybody. What it does for us is, we are accountable. We have a vested interest in a much different way to ensure high quality service, reasonable rates and charges, and exceptional safety standards, etc.

“It’s managed by the private sector, but we have a bit more leverage when it comes to fuel pricing. We have taken a different approach, and it gives us tremendous flexibility in a number of areas.”

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