leader

Airport extension to attract more planes

The Louisiana Regional Airport near Burnside will soon begin construction on its runway to extend it by 1,000 feet -- which will put it on high altitude aviation maps that many private and corporate jets subscribe to -- with $4.1 million in federal and state grants.

The Louisiana Regional Airport near Burnside will soon begin construction on its runway to extend it by 1,000 feet — which will put it on high altitude aviation maps that many private and corporate jets subscribe to — with $4.1 million in federal and state grants.

Louisiana Regional Airport in Ascension Parish isn’t on the radar of many private and corporate jets, and that has sent many Ascension travelers to Baton Rouge and New Orleans runways instead. But by late spring or early summer of next year, the airport in the Burnside area south of Interstate 10 will be put on the maps of jets capable of flying at 10,000 feet — literally.

With $4.1 million in federal and state grants, the airport will extend its runway by 1,000 feet — among other improvements — and meet minimum requirements for placement on so-called high altitude aviation maps that long distance aircraft subscribe to. “I’m told that’s going to be a tremendous thing for us,” said Janet Gonzales, manager of the Louisiana Regional Airport. “I think it opens up the door for more business to have an ease of access to our area.” At 4,000 feet in length, the north-south runway currently prevents many aircraft from filling their fuel tanks to full capacity before takeoff. That diverts many aircraft with passengers traveling to Ascension Parish to land in Baton Rouge or New Orleans instead, Gonzales said.

At the same time, revenue is driven by hangar fees and earnings of 10 cents for every gallon of fuel pumped at the Louisiana Regional Airport, Gonzales said. The airport does not collect landing fees. A 5,000-foot runway, Gonzales said, will allow many of those aircraft to top off with fuel before takeoff. In fact, the longer runway will also allow jets to depart and land in bad weather.

“That ease is what we’re looking for,” Gonzales said. As it is now, Gonzales said it’s not uncommon to see business travelers fly into the airport under fair conditions and get forced to fly out of Baton Rouge or New Orleans because of poor weather.

The airport manager also notes that some companies’ insurance policies do not allow aircraft to operate on runways shorter than 5,000 feet. However, the longer runway won’t mean bigger aircraft will begin crowding Burnside’s airspace. Gonzales said it just means that it will be a more attractive destination for those that already do, and relevant to those that currently do not.

The 1,000-foot extension will be added to the south side of the runway. The state Department of Transportation and Development said most of the grant money, $3.8 million, is funded by federal dollars. Gonzales said the runway work should begin no later than early December and take five months to complete. The taxiway will also receive improvements during that time.

Because most of the runway work will occur during the winter, Gonzales said normal flights shouldn’t be affected. During the winter air is denser and aircraft can take off quicker, also allowing them to fill up with more fuel.It’s the thinner air of summer, Gonzales said, that requires a longer runway. However, the airport will have to close for two days and also operate with a 3,000-foot runway during construction.  “We may end up losing some of the jet traffic that we’ve been getting, but fortunately it’s in the winter months,” Gonzales said.

The airport does not keep traffic records, Gonzales said — it doesn’t have an air traffic control tower — but normally has at least 100 planes based there at any given time.