Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

Airport growth expected


“Leave it in a better state than when it was given to you.” That is a motto Airport Authority Board Chairman Jason Lockwood adheres to and a quote that was stated to him, by the former airport chairman, the late Ken Risk.

Renovations are planned for Kimball’s Robert E. Arraj airport, according to Lockwood. The property, which is more than half a century old, is projected to see new runway lights and a new beacon by early 2017, at an approximate cost of $150,000.

Although just four licensed pilots operate from the local facility, he explained that the airport see traffic from all over the country.

In fact, normally five to seven aircraft use runways and the full taxi way on a weekly basis, ranging from large jets to experimental planes.

The full size taxi way project was completed about four years ago, at a cost of a million and half dollars.

“That’s when we started doing big time renovations – about four years ago,” he said, “the next big step was the new hanger and it was almost a million dollars, it totaled $970,000.”

The new hanger, a fully insulated, six-plane, stack-T hanger that is fully electric with bi-fold doors is nearly always full, according to Lockwood.

They receive a lot of their business from the front range of Colorado, as well as Cheyenne because the cost at the local airport is more reasonable compared to the other states. Because of this, more hangers are expected to be built in the distant future.

“We did bond this project, as we did the taxi project,” he said. “We pay ten percent, but we get grants from the FAA through a program called The Airport Improvement Program, or the AIP.”

In addition to the tax money received from the city, which is used to pay the project bonds, the local airport receives federal funds that filter down through the Nebraska Department of Aeronautics.

Funds that Risk, who was appointed to the Nebraska Department of Aeronautics board by then-Governor Mike Johanns, was instrumental in getting for the previous local projects.

“He (Ken) would fly back and forth to the meetings in Lincoln,” Lockwood said, “so, he was able to get us on the list for a lot of the grants. We can dip into those about every four years.”

Though money is available to assist with the necessary projects, Lockwood added that spending is limited.

“We really run a tight ship out there. Really we operate the airport on less than forty-five thousand dollars a year,” Lockwood said. “We pay most of our maintenance costs from revenue from fuel sales. We sell jet fuel and some gas on-site.”

Fuel sales are higher in the summer months, according to Lockwood, when the airport is busier.

“We poured a helipad and the Air Force uses our airport a lot. They’ve been really good to us,” he said “They land and buy jet fuel. We really appreciate them and try to do what we can for them.”

Lockwood is proud to announce that the airport boasts a new aviation business with the addition of a certified flight instructor, Ed Nelson, of Sidney, who will conduct aviation repair as well as offer pilot lessons to interested parties.

“That’s a big boost for our airport. (Nelson) is still in the process of moving everything. He has numerous aircraft and lots of tools,” Lockwood said. “We’re glad to have him. He’s very well known across the state of Nebraska; he ran the Sidney airport for thirty years.”

Updates to the heating system in the shop were to allow Nelson the ability to repair aircraft.

“We have a lot of community support,” Lockwood said, “and we have a good active board. John Ferguson helps me out a lot. It takes a lot of effort and none of the board members receive a salary.” Lockwood sees a really good future for the local airport, and believes that a good airport facility is mandatory to grow Kimball in the future.


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