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EKU Aviation Participates in Airport Open House

EKU Aviation fleet

Airport fuel sales up 34 percent; Jet traffic also increases
By Bill Robinson, Register Editor
The Richmond Register

RICHMOND — The ceiling was too low for the Young Eagles to fly but the barbecue was superb as Eastern Kentucky University, the fixed-base operator for Madison Airport hosted an open house Saturday.

The event could more properly be called an “open hangar” as the doors were open on the airport's two larger hangers for the public to walk in and see the airplanes parked there.

A corporaMadison County Airport manager Jason Bonham, left, talks Saturday with 14-year-olds Jackson Brewer, left, and Sam Eye and 15-year-old Jonathan Ross, all of Richmond, about the corporate jet he flew to the airport for its open house. te jet flown in for the occasion was strategically parked in front of the largest hanger to which the airport office and conference room are attached.

The university, whose aviation management and flight instruction programs are the airport's largest user, assumed management of the airport in August after being awarded a contract by the airport board appointed by the fiscal court and the county's two municipalities.

The airport has made significant progress since last year when a federally funded extension of the runway to 5,000 feet was completed and the university assumed management, said Jason Bonham, airport manager. Fuel sales, the airport's main source of income, were up 34 percent in March from a year earlier.

The longer runway allows more corporate jets to use the airport without getting special permission from their insurers. The airport will become even more attractive to jets soon when a $33,000 fueling vehicle purchased by the airport board goes into service, Bonham said. The fuel truck will allow jets to be fueled on the airport apron without pulling them close to the fuel pumps, a delicate and sometimes problematic maneuver for jets that may cost as much as $10 million.

Earlier this month, three jets that had flown in were sitting on the airport apron, he said. One jet is permanently based at the airport.

Ray Richardson and son Alex, 9, of Richmond look at an airplane parked at the Madison County Airport during an open house on Saturday. The university's flight-training program has been able to operate more efficiently, getting planes in the air more frequently, since it has been managing the airport, Bonham said.

Students in EKU's aviation management program also are now getting practical experience at the airport, he said.

Crosswind Aviation, the contractor that maintains the university's aircraft, has set up a maintenance and repair shop, offering service to all owners and making the airport more attractive to fly-ins as well as permanently based planes.

Motorists who wince whenever regular gasoline approaches $4 a gallon should be glad they don't have to pay the aviation-gas prices posted at the airport, $5.29 and $5.54 a gallon. However, those prices are cheaper than some competing airports in central Kentucky, said Patrick Daugherty, a pilot who attended the open house.

Jet fuel prices are cheaper than aviation-gas, but still more expensive than auto fuel, $4.60 and $4.85 a gallon.

Cody Ballee, a senior at Ryle High School in northern Kentucky, and his father, Mike, stopped at the airport Saturday on their way to Knoxville, Tenn. Cody said he plans to enroll at EKU in the fall and major in aviation. Cody, who already has his private pilot's license, said he chose Eastern because it was the the only university with a professional flight-training program in Kentucky.

The low ceiling was no barrier for Cody and his father, former head of aviation for Ashland Inc. They flew to Madison County using instrument flight rules, which they would use over the more mountainous terrain between here and Knoxville.

Dan Beamer, an Eastern Kentucky University aviation student from Berea, shows 2-year-old daughter Annabella the instrument panel on the inside of an airplane during an open house Saturday at the Madison County Airport.Several teenagers came to the airport although the pilots who offer the Young Eagle program could not take them aloft. They seemed happy just inspecting the parked aircraft, especially the jet they were allowed to enter and check out the cockpit.

Bill Robinson can be reached at brobinson@richmondregister.com or at 624-6622.

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Published on April 23, 2012

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