MILLINOCKET, Maine — Six years ago, Millinocket Municipal Airport generated $55,000 in revenue. Last year, it generated $105,000, airport Supervisor Jeff Campbell said Friday.
It might take another five years for the airport to overcome its $120,000 operating cost and make a profit for town government, but a $600,000 federal grant will fund work this summer that will speed that process and create more revenue for Katahdin region businesses, Campbell said.
The Federal Aviation Administration grant will fund resurfacing of the northern third of the airport tarmac — the aircraft parking area, the aircraft taxiways, a new ramp and a new tie-down area for aircraft. The other two-thirds of the airport’s tarmac was done previously, Campbell said.
“This will give them a much more secure tie-down for their planes in the area,” Town Manager Peggy Daigle said Friday of the airport’s local and visiting fliers. “It will give the whole taxiing area a lot better surface to travel along.”
The new work will include new drainage systems and gravel bedding. It will create tie-down spaces for large turboprop passenger planes and for small passenger jets, which can typically seat as many as 10 passengers, Campbell said.
“It will allow bigger aircrafts and more clients that would use that type of aircraft,” Campbell said. “Industry executives are a good portion of it [that traffic] and also recreational fliers. A lot of recreational fliers own their own jets, and they come here to climb mountains, whitewater raft and so forth.”
“The real benefit is that we will rent more vehicles, restaurants will sell more food, the motels have more customers, and so on,” Campbell added.
Since the town took over the airport in 2007, town leaders’ goal has been to incrementally turn the airport into a cornerstone of the region’s economy through the use of grants, not town funds.
“They are kind of untapped gems for eco development,” Daigle said of airports such as Millinocket’s. “Everything we can do to make better opportunities for the aviation world here, the better it is for the town.”
Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s and once owned by the now-defunct Great Northern Paper Co., the airport has a Class B-2 runway that sets it apart from Maine’s small regional airports, officials have said.
One runway is about 4,713 feet in length, features pilot-controlled lighting and can handle small passenger jets.
“We can bring them in now but [the parking area] is too tight. It is too close. We have to be very careful how we park them,” Campbell said. “The new work will fix that.”
The airport’s second runway is 4,007 feet long and can take smaller aircraft. Activities at the airport include scenic flights, flight training, survey and wildlife flights, skydiving, a rental car operation, an aircraft mechanic operation that also restores military Cessnas, and a model airplane club, according to the town’s website, www.millinocket.org.
Prior grant-funded airport improvement work included the removal of flight and visibility obstructions, new lighting, an instrument approach system and new runway markings, Campbell said.
The latest job is scheduled to begin in June. The installation of a building to house snowmobile removal equipment will occur in 2014, Campbell said.
“It won’t be long before the town will start making money there. That’s all directly related to how much work we have been doing,” he said.