Expansion plans at two regional airports in the metro-east have resulted in hundreds of new jobs.
Corporate aircraft maintenance and interior designer Midcoast Aviation is bringing 100 new jobs to St. Louis Downtown Airport in Cahokia this summer, while about 175 new employees were added recently at St. Louis Regional Airport in Bethalto.
To accommodate its increased business, the Cahokia airport plans to build a new $6.5 million, 138-foot air traffic control tower and adjacent administration offices and parking lot. Work is expected to begin by July, airport director Bob McDaniel said. He said the new tower will replace the airport's 32-year-old tower that has outlived its usefulness.
The tower and other infrastructure will take a year to complete. Radios and computerized equipment will be installed in the next six months, and another six months will be needed to train personnel.
McDaniel said the airport plans to be operating from the new tower by April 2007.
By the time the airport breaks ground on the tower, Midcoast Aviation will have added its new employees. The company, which performs custom painting and refurbishes interiors on planes, has leased space at the Cahokia airport for the past 25 years and currently has about 900 employees.
The company also installs and maintains global positioning systems and integrated plane navigation radios. Six months ago, it completed construction of a 43,000-square-foot state-of-the-art painting building.
"They've been a great tenant," McDaniel said. "We're tickled to death that they're here and they're continuing to expand. It's been a longtime partnership. It's good for everybody."
Premier Air Center added jobs at St. Louis Regional Airport after signing a new contract earlier this year. The company refurbishes engines in Falcon aircraft -- corporate jets that can seat from nine to 20.
Airport operations superintendent Steve Bell said Premier Air, along with fellow tenants -- aircraft interior repair and installer Completion Air and flight trainer Langa Air Inc. --have combined to create 500 jobs at the Bethalto airport.
Langa currently has 100 students enrolled.
Bell said each business has contributed to the airport's and region's economy.
"The airport is rapidly growing," Bell said.
The airport also serves as a "reliever airport" for Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, located 30 air miles away. One of the airport's two runways is equipped to handle any passenger airline, regardless of weather.
The airport sees about 70,000 take-offs and landings a year for aircraft repair, maintenance and storage.
By comparison, the Cahokia airport sees 180,000 arrivals and departures each year and is the second-busiest airport in the St. Louis metropolitan area behind Lambert.
"It's not the sleepy hollow that everyone thinks," McDaniel said.
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