Allen County Airport
Business as usual
Business View Magazine interviews Josh Tattrie, Airport Manager at the Allen County Airport, for our focus on U.S. Regional Airports
The Allen County Airport is a public use airport located five miles southeast of the central business district of Lima, Ohio. The area’s first foray into aviation occurred back on July 28, 1911 at the former Allen County Fairgrounds – now the site of Lima Memorial Hospital – when pilot Calbraith Perry Rodgers, a pupil of Orville Wright, took flight in a Model-B Wright Biplane with a 35-horsepower engine. Rodgers made three flights that day; staying low so that persons outside the grounds could not get a good look at the event without paying 50 cents for admission.
Today, everyone at Allen County Airport is working harder than ever before. Business View Magazine recently contacted Airport Manager Josh Tattrie for updates on the airport facility and a look at what the future holds. The following is a compilation of his candid insights.
According to Tattrie: “2020 presented a unique year of challenges and hurdles to overcome. Obviously, the COVID-19 virus has impacted every facet of our daily lives. I was worried this would be another 9/11 type of workplace /environment all over again (a ghost town). The public was scared and frightened, but aviation adapted quickly, and those fears soon departed. It was very quiet out here in February & March of 2020. We were nervous at first, but today, it’s business as usual at the Allen County Airport.
Flying is about as social distant as one can get! Private chartering of aircraft at one point was up 300 percent. The numbers are even higher now! NetJets and Wheels Up (frequent flyers at Allen Co.) never had a chance to drag their feet during 2020. However corporate business travel was almost nonexistent, though. Large corporations have really been taking the Covid precautions very serious. We made up for lost fuel sales by catering to Haverfield Aviation. Haverfield has been working in the Allen County area for years and they base several helicopters here throughout the year. These guys work on live high voltage powerlines while strapped to the side of a MD500 Helicopter. It’s a real sight to see and these guys are the best of the best.
Over the years, we’ve continued to grow in capability. We are proud to offer Aircraft Deicing and Anti-icing capabilities, specifically, heated type 1 aircraft deicing fluid. We sold and repurposed older equipment to acquire funding. A local corporation helped the airport with a donation and really wanted us to have the capability on site. CTL Engineering did all the necessary paperwork for us to acquire the needed permits, as well. We also offer a large heated corporate hangar, if needed. It has already proven to attract new faces, aircraft, pilots, etc. Coupled with our long 6000′ x 150′ foot fully grooved runway, we have a winning combination.
Our snow removal equipment capability is essential to keep the airport open in the worst winter conditions. Federal funding from the FAA and the State of Ohio has gone a long way in helping us acquire new modern equipment. We now have a new 2019 Freightliner Dump/plow truck with a 15′ wide Gledhill plow & blade assembly used mainly on the runway and taxiways. It is still exciting to use. We can clear the runway in 20-25 minutes assuming accumulation is not too heavy. We also have a New Holland bi-directional tractor ordered with a Degelman Speedblade and a Schulte’s SDX-117 Snow Blower. A MB Industries 16′ wide snow broom is used to remove snow, slush, ice, and FOD with its combination of metal and plastic bristle brushes. We also have one older plow truck (donated), snow shovels, small blowers, and a smaller Boss V-plow. The Allen Co. Engineers Office & the Allen Co. Fairgrounds have always been a big help to the airport by donating old, retired highway plow trucks and other pieces of equipment. We take a lot of pride in keeping good relations with all the other local agencies in Allen County.
In the past few months, we’ve been adding more hangar tenants – older and younger pilots. I think people are at a comfortable point in their lives, where they are willing to spend some money again and enjoy the aviation type of lifestyle. Word is getting around that the airport has 24-hour terminal lobby access, free high-speed Wi-Fi, we are here seven days a week, the runway is always plowed, etc. We treat all our customers the same and I’m very proud knowing my tenants and customers will return, again and again.
We offer full-service fueling and have been looking into adding a self-serve fueling station for the aviator who lands after hours. Self-serve fuel is becoming more and more common as time goes on. We also take fuel quality control very seriously, so serious that we started to practice ATA 103 Fuel Safety Standards for Jet fuels. These are the same safety protocols the airline industry uses to maintain fuel quality at the larger regional /towered airports across the country. We found that we had the necessary tools to do so & our investment was minimal. The satisfaction, pride, and increased safety margins that our pilots and passengers would expect go hand in hand. We are branded by EPIC Fuels and they perform yearly audits and go over all our fueling equipment with us. We are due for a new fuel farm in 2032 and we are doing everything we can to preserve our existing fuel farm. We recently added a new touchscreen fuel monitoring station (Omntec Proteus), installed by Advance Fuel Systems, that checks for leaks, water intrusion, has over fill & under fill shutoff protection, and shows real time fuel volume levels. It’s very nice!
We are also proud to have new LED PAPI Lights installed by J. Ranck Electric on the left side of runway 28. The new LED system is very easy to adjust as time and conditions change. Setting the slope angle aircraft rely on for primary guidance to the runway surface is critical, but now made much easier with our new system. The project was completed quickly and on time! Regarding safety, it’s a very new and welcomed system. So far, it’s been a big hit with new arrivals. They love the brighter LED lights.
We were hoping to have part of our Apron milled and filled for the 2020 year, but winter temps made it impossible. The project was pushed back until spring of 2021. Bluffton Paving will be spearheading the endeavor, while our engineers and consultants for the project, BF&S, monitor onsite. We are hoping our entire apron will be eligible for a mill and fill. Three years ago, a contractor applied the wrong seal coating to our existing pavement. It was a nightmare at first and it’s still a mess. We must literally watch our step and constantly monitor pilots and passengers alike. Any fuel spills, drips, or the alike cause the existing apron to dissolve into a “Hershey Syrup” type of mess. We learned a lot about pavement that year.
A complete surprise for 2020 was the FAA wanting to know if we could proceed early with our 2022 & 2023 ACIP projects. We said yes! We are keeping our fingers crossed the FAA will fund the project 100 percent for 2021, the same as 2020 (Congress “Cares Act”). This will be new runway edge lighting, taxiway edge lighting, end lighting, new electrical vault, new manual control panel inside of the airport terminal building, and all corresponding drainage issues that have plagued the older 30-year-old runway lighting system. The airport has a standing line of credit to pay for our matching share if the FAA will not match funding 100 percent. The new lighting systems are state of the art technology allowing pilots to find the runway in the worst weather conditions. Equipped aircraft can use forward looking infrared (FLIR) and night vision coupled with their heads-up display (HUD). This technology allows aircraft to see the new lights through fog, rain, snow, low clouds, etc. Needless to say, the future of our runway lighting system is going to be very bright!
The Allen County Economic Development Group (AEDG) has had interest from others about purchasing/leasing land from the county for direct runway access. That is exciting. We are four miles from the Lima city limits; next to the hotels and all the restaurants, with easy highway access. We have city water, sewer, and high-speed internet access. Fiber optic lines are close by, as well as natural gas. City/Township fire hydrants are onsite and along Hanthorn Rd. So, we are set to cater to anyone who is willing to build. We’ll be working with AEDG more closely in the future to make any question they have easier. Our airport also helps keep existing employers in the community and attract new ones to the region because companies value the transportation and competitive business advantages offered by GA airports. Business developers look for ready access to air transportation when they make decisions on where to locate new operations and facilities. You can move in and out of here very quickly. Emergency freight to keep the assembly line moving is a prime example.
Our General Aviation (GA) Airport is an essential community asset that directly benefits the lives of everyone in Allen County. We are the first face for any new business that comes to Lima. The county expects us to make a great impression! Business aircraft travel to and from local airports across the country every day, bringing marketing, professional, technical service, and support staffers efficiently and quickly to their destination. These individuals, in turn, spend money in the local economy by staying in local hotels and eating at nearby restaurants. Air ambulances (helicopters), freight, organ donor flights, surgical teams, DOD, Air Force One/HMX-1, Angel Flights, PAW Flights (yes, a puppy was adopted & flown in), & the list goes on… We’ve had infants transported from out of state that needed critical care at one of our two local hospitals (St. Rita’s and Lima Memorial). We are very proud to be part of those services in one way or another. Even fallen soldiers have been flown home to Allen County. This is a Public Airport, and we are here for the public of Allen County.
As it continues to age, the Allen County Airport will continue to provide the essential services one would expect. We can only continue to grow and prosper. We have three full-time dedicated employees, an active airport board authority, active volunteers, and we are a “Diamond in the Rough.” Our ACIP Projects list goes well into the year 2041 – I hope I’m still here to see that happen!