U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-IA) visited Fairfield Municipal Airport Friday to congratulate the city on receiving a $400,000 federal grant to repair portions of the airport.
The money comes from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration grant program. It will be used to reconstruct 700 feet of the existing taxiway pavement that has reached the end of its useful life. The federal government is funding 90 percent of the project with the city paying the remaining 10 percent. The airport will also receive work to its hangar entryways. The state is funding 85 percent of that project, with the city picking up the rest.
“The Fairfield Municipal Airport plays a critical role in allowing the community to grow, as well as fuel additional economic development throughout the region,” said Loebsack. “I am pleased that Fairfield Municipal Airport is receiving this competitive funding, helping the airport grow.”
Loebsack was joined at the airport by Mayor Ed Malloy, Jefferson County Supervisor and former City Councilor Daryn Hamilton, airport manager Bob Lyons and assistant manager Roger Lyons, and members of the airport commission. They spoke about how the airport has been critical in attracting and keeping businesses in Fairfield because of its long runway that can accommodate jets.
Bob Lyons said a couple of businesses, The Raj and Cambridge Investment Research, use the airport frequently, and he mentioned that Agri-Industrial Plastics welcomed someone on a Gulfstream II jet recently. He said Dexter Apache has used the airport for business purposes, too.
The Ottumwa Regional Airport’s runway is closed this summer for repairs. Bob said that has meant more traffic for Fairfield. He remarked that JBS Pork has used Fairfield’s runway, and the head basketball coach at the University of Illinois, Brad Underwood, flew into Fairfield to visit a recruit at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa.
Loebsack asked the airport managers what jets the runway could accommodate with its 5,500-foot runway. Bob said it can accommodate anything short of a 737, which requires a 6,000 foot runway.
Fairfield Economic Development Association Executive Director Joshua Laraby said Cambridge is continuing to expand, and now employs more than 800 people.
Bob remarked, “Cambridge would have gone somewhere else without this airport, because they fly to Chicago and New York a lot.”
Bob credited Malloy and city councilors like Hamilton in helping to make the case for Fairfield to receive the grant money necessary to lengthen its runway 1,500 feet in 2008. Malloy even flew to Washington, D.C., to lobby the federal government on the city’s behalf.
Loebsack asked about the future of airports now that some farmers are using drones instead of planes to spray weeds in their field. René Holmberg said the thing he’s seen more of is that farmers are spotting their weeds with a drone and then spraying them with a plane. Roger Lyons said that, eventually, drones capable of spraying weeds could reduce traffic at the airport, but he hasn’t seen that yet.
Bob mentioned that the airport is susceptible to financial shocks just like a lot of other industries. For instance, he mentioned there was a downturn after 9/11, and again during the financial crisis of 2008. Malloy said Bob and Roger run the airport efficiently so it is not a burden on the city’s budget.