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Airport expects more corporate traffic

Expect more corporate traffic and less interest in general aviation at Suffolk Executive Airport, according to Economic Development Director Kevin Hughes.

Briefing the City Council at its Wednesday work session, Hughes said this is due to the cost of operating personal aircraft, with planes costing $300,000 apiece, in addition to fuel, repairs and other operating costs.

“We’re seeing a slight decline, and have for some years, in … people doing general aviation,” Hughes said.

There is more of “an opportunity related to corporate aircraft out here because of the space we have out here,” Hughes said. “That’s how we’re looking at it today.”

Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett asked if the airport had enough hangars to supply the need of aviators in the region. Currently, there are 58 total T hangars and seven box hangars, all of which are 100 percent leased.

Hughes said the city maintains a waiting list, which is done at airports all over the Hampton Roads region.

“I’d say there’s interest,” Hughes said. “I don’t know if it’s screaming interest, like we’ve got to go out there and build.”

It is built into the Capital Improvements Program and Plan to build a hangar down the line, he said.

Fuel sales, takeoffs and landings are also up from the same time a year ago, Hughes said. In the third quarter of fiscal year 2018, there were 983 takeoffs and landings from the airport, versus 1,025 in the same period of the current fiscal year. Fuel sales are also up by more than $5,000 in the same time period, from $29,437 in the third quarter of fiscal year 2018, to $34,913 in the third quarter of fiscal year 2019.

Hughes also said a site plan has been approved for a maintenance shelter at the airport, and a bid for construction has been posted. The maintenance shelter would allow for equipment at the airport to get out of the elements and be sheltered, he said.

In economic development news, Hughes said he is pleased with the increase in visits from prospective businesses. The year started with just two prospect visits in January, he said, but it picked up in the next two months, with 11 total visits taking place through March.

The types of industries visiting include two from retailers, two more in advanced manufacturing, and individual visits from office, warehousing, technology and hospitality-related businesses. Three visits were categorized as “other,” which he said “usually has a mixed-use connotation.”

“We’re really starting to see an uptick in, I’d say, really qualified prospects,” Hughes said. “So I’m really excited about the folks we’re talking to right now and the steps that are occurring.”