Russellville-Logan Co. Airport: "A Jewel"         August 10, 2012

This week, KBT had the opportunity to chat with another one of Kentucky's General Aviation (GA) airports that is making great progress in being an active participant to support, sustain and enhance economic development in the three county region of Todd, Simpson and Logan counties.

The airport is Russellville-Logan County Airport (4M7) located 4 nautical miles southeast of downtown Russellville. And again, the secret to their success seems to have a common thread: everyone in the 3 county region is committed to enhancing the air transportation experience, for a wide variety of reasons. Some supporters see direct benefits to teaching high school students how math and science skills are directly connected to flying. Others are involved to support nearby Fort Campbell, and others to increase business activity, by either expanding existing businesses, or attracting new ones. Still others use aviation to showcase the agricultural assets (there are BIG farming operations in Todd, Simpson and Logan counties) even attracting visitors from overseas.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves, here.

The Russellville-Logan Airport opened on February 1, 1966, 46 years ago. But its new $760,000 Terminal Building, which was dedicated on April 22, 2009, has given both the airport and the region a real sense of excitement and momentum.

"The 6 Board members, and the support from Mayor Mark Stratton and Judge Logan Chick, are what make this airport a jewel," Airport Board Chairman (General) Jerry Humble told KBT this week.

We think he's exactly right.

Chairman Humble shared their organizational approach with KBT. "Each Board member has a focus area. They are: multi-county relations; hangars and paint shop; grounds and beautification; grants; government relations, and connections with Fort Campbell." While one Board member, Steve Dilliha, has served on the Board for 14 years, the remaining 5 Board members have only served 2, 3 or 5 years each. "But all of our Board members are here at the airport to help. We may fuel up a King Air, or help a pilot load or unload a plane. Occasionally, a pilot or a passenger may be surprised to learn that we're Airport Board members, but we're here and we love to help."

KBT believes that they are organized for success.

In 2008, the airport "footprint" has expanded from 68 acres to 84 acres. Humble and fellow Board member Wayne Yount also give considerable credit to the energy of R.B. Hirsch, the Manager at the Russellville-Logan Airport for the past two years. "He's a young professional and is exactly what we needed," Humble said. Yount, an aviation enthusiast with a background in chemical engineering, agreed.

A very useful tenant on their airport property is Sunshine Aviation, a major airplane painting operation. In recent years they have painted Kentucky State Police helicopters, as well as airplanes managed by the Kentucky Department of Aviation in Frankfort. Sunshine Aviation paints airplanes from all over the East Coast of the U.S.

"This airport has had a revolution, and everyone is playing a part in its success," Humble said. He pointed to interest and support from State Representative Martha Jane King as well as State Senator Joey Pendleton. But he also shared a revealing fact. "In the past two years, 4 business leaders have bought planes and we have promises of more," Humble said. "We have other support in Frankfort. Commissioner Wynn Turney and the KDA staff have been magnificent to help, offer advice and answer questions."

The region is home to an impressive list of corporate giants. Emerson Electric, Logan Aluminum, Carpenters Inc., Griffin Industries, H & H Sheet Metal, Jakes Fireworks, not to mention significant agricultural operations, make this General Aviation airport a crucial link so that these businesses can maximize their output.

In 2009, they installed above-ground and self-serve Jet A and AV-gas tanks, and also made improvements to a parking apron extension. In 2011, they added LED runway lights, GPS approach, and PAPI lights and the end of their Runway 06/24.

And while the Runway 06/24 is currently 4,000 feet in length, they have commissioned a study with the firm Garver LLC to determine if a runway extension would be beneficial to area businesses or Fort Campbell. They hope to have recommendations from their consultant by next summer, 2013. Humble was generous in his praise for the FAA Memphis office, too, noting that officials from Memphis attended the opening ceremony of the new Terminal Building in 2009, and that they continue to be interested and supportive of improvements at the Russellville-Logan County Airport.

Airport Board members Jerry Humble and Wayne Yount also credit some of their recent successes to a "fly around" to visit other airports and benchmark their operating practices. "We learned so much from Stuart Powell in Danville, as well as Glasgow, Greenville, and Harlan County. Actually, there were ten airports in all, and that was a great learning process for us," Humble and Yount told KBT.

"Let me tell you my last story," General Humble said. "We have a fabulous Italian restaurant here in Logan County called Ariella. We have people fly in here to our airport, just because they want to have dinner at Ariella," he concluded.