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Aucoin: Airport upgrades reflect region’s growth, impact

The Port of South Louisiana Executive Regional Airport has come a long way. Only a few short years ago it was known primarily as a general aviation and recreational airport.

However, today, after incorporating a number of improvements and capital projects that have increased its viability and attractiveness to pilots and business passengers throughout the United States, this growing airport has become an aerial gateway to the River Parishes community.

Many officers and executives of plants and industries located throughout the area now consider the Executive Regional Airport as a preferred local alternative to driving the extensive distances associated with landing in New Orleans or Baton Rouge.

In addition, contractors such as engineers, architects and even the customers of these industries are now using the Executive Regional Airport to access the River Parishes.

This transformation and additional use has, without question, had an economic impact on the local community. Enhanced access by air results in creation of new jobs.

Taking a closer look, there are the other impacts that may seem small, but are equally important. For instance, in all of these visits, there are restaurant visits, hotel stays and often side trips to our River Parishes attractions.

In order to support this activity and interest in flying into our community, the Port of South Louisiana is actively engaged in a number of airport improvement projects:

In 2019, the entire length of the airport’s 5,150 foot runway will be completely resurfaced, a project funded by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development-Aviation Section. Upon completion, this resurfacing will make the airport even more appealing as a destination for large corporate jets.

By the end of this year, planning and design of a new T-hangar for private and business use will be completed. Construction will begin in early 2019.

This new hangar will provide shelter for 10 additional aircraft on the airport. Airport security is also being enhanced with an expansion of the perimeter fencing and additional cameras associated with these projects and new buildings.

Finally, one of the most cost-effective and beneficial projects that will be undertaken by the Port to improve access to our community by aircraft is the reduction, clearing and removal of excessive tree growth to the north of the airport.

This natural growth impacts airport operation throughout the United States and can often reduce the airspace available for approaches to the runway. As a result, airports regularly take the steps necessary to limit this intrusion without impacting the health of surrounding wetlands and forested areas.

This future project will be a cooperative endeavor incorporating the support of a number of agencies including not only the Port, but also the FAA, LaDOTD and the U.S Army Corps of Engineers. Once completed, this project will increase the usable length of the runway and allow even larger aircraft to use the airport.

Our River Parish community continues to attract new businesses and industries on both sides of the Mississippi River. Enhancing the usability of the Executive Regional Airport is another way that the Port of South Louisiana invests in our future to support this growth.

Paul Aucoin is executive director of the Port of South Louisiana. For more information, call 985-652-9278.