The future looks bright for the Ontario Municipal Airport as a major project to expand the infrastructure at the facility is nearly complete. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell).
ONTARIO – The Ontario Municipal Airport is on the verge of finishing work to create new taxiways and expand hanger lots while the U.S. Bureau of Land Management considers expanding its operations there.
The city used state, federal and local funds to drive the $700,000 taxiway and hangar lot expansion that will be capped in the spring when crews finish with paving.
Adam Brown, Ontario city manager, said the taxiway and hangar lot project was “90 percent federally funded.”
The city used $7,000 from its general fund and the state chipped in grant money for the project, said Brown.
The airport offers a Federal Aviation Administration regulated 5,011-foot runway, a full-length parallel taxiway and a non-regulated 1,800-foot grass runway.
The upgrades are part of the city’s five-year plan for the airport.
Airport improvements are a key for the future, Brown said.
“It’s one step closer to having shovel-ready lots for hangar development. We have to get the hangars built out so we can become more sustainable as an airport,” said Brown.
The city collects a small profit from hangar leases, said Brown, but the use of other infrastructure at the facility helps sustain the airfield. The more people use the airport – for hangar storage or to fly in and out of it – the more income the city can collect.
“The hangar houses a plane. The plane owners buy fuel for their aircraft, which is another way of supporting the operations. The city gets a fuel flowage fee for each gallon of fuel. That, and the leases, are the primary sources of income to manage the airport day to day,” he said.
Future expansion at the airport includes a new building to house BLM staff in support of its heli-attack and fixed-wing fire suppression programs.
Brown said the BLM already earmarked $2.5 million for the project that could begin next summer. Now, said Brown, the BLM is completing engineering on the project.
The new building will be built in southeast corner of the airport, said Brown.
Brown said he hopes the building could be dual-use, with space dedicated for the city’s airport manager and for local schools.
“There are a number of possibilities,” said Brown.
Tommy Frazier owns Frazier Aviation, the company that has managed operations at the airport since 2012. He said the airfield is a gateway to long-term economic development for the area.
“Onion buyers and businesses here from Home Deport to Seneca Foods to Ore-Ida fly into here. Even now, the new businesses, the marijuana businesses, all those folks fly into here,” said Frazier.
Without the airport “I don’t believe a lot of those businesses would have chosen to be here.”
Frazier said traffic at the airport depends on the day and the season.
“There have been 20 flights today. During the summer months, when the BLM is here with their single-engine air tankers and Heli-attack, it is not uncommon to have 35, 40 or 45 takeoffs and landings a day,” said Frazier.
Brown said airport traffic is climbing.
Brown said the “amount of business that goes through there is really surprising.”
“We are finding a lot of corporations that use our airport. As Nampa and Caldwell and Boise fill up, that’s pushing more traffic to us,” said Brown.
Frazier and Brown said more people are also using the grass airstrip at the airport.
Recreational pilots in smaller planes use the grass airstrip when they fly into more secluded areas in Oregon and Idaho to camp, fish or hunt, said Frazier.
“It is a segment of aviation that is really, really growing,” he said.
News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]
HOLIDAY SPECIAL: Get a full year of access to the digital service of the Malheur Enterprise at a 25% savings. No news organization can match our quality and depth of coverage of Malheur County. This is a limited time offer you can get HERE.