Wheels Up: Executive Regional Airport’s new master plan sets lofty goals
Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 28, 2022
BY MISTY MILIOTO
SPECIAL TO L’OBSERVATEUR
RESERVE — Serving Southeast Louisiana and the River Parishes business community, the Port of South Louisiana Executive Regional Airport (KAPS) eliminates drive time to and from commercial airports in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. The airport welcomes small, medium and large business aircraft operations, and it’s the only airport in the region that can take on future overflow from Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY).
Now, a new Master Plan—the first since St. John the Baptist Parish transferred KAPS to the Port in 2012—lays the groundwork for the airport’s growth and prosperity over the next 10 to 20 years.
According to Port of South Louisiana CEO Paul Matthews, KAPS is the only regional airport that is not landlocked, thereby allowing for significant growth. “We want to take the next step in becoming multimodal by bringing in cargo to the airport,” he says. “Any growth here grows the tax base. When we grow, the region grows.”
The Port hired Kutchins & Groh, a company that provides airport planning and management consultant services to airports, to ensure that the airport’s goals for a successful Master Plan are accomplished.
“Good planning of an airport’s growth is the key to the success of any airport,” says Managing Principal, George Groh. “The FAA requires an Airport Master Plan—it is the path forward that guides the development of the airport. The Master Plan gives the FAA an understanding of how funding priorities will be needed and used in the future.”
For KAPS, the Master Plan started with an inventory of the existing airport facilities and their condition. “A forecast is developed to look at the projected growth of the region as a whole and how the airport fits into that growth,” Groh says. “From the forecast, we can then look at what types of facilities will be needed going forward.”
The Master Plan kicked off in October 2021 with the facility assessment and a couple of strategy sessions. The work is expected to be complete by the end of this year.
Two groups will meet several times over the course of the project. The technical group is made up of pilots and the community group is made up of professionals in economic development, tourism, education and other sectors. The Master Planning process allows the airport, the community, and travelers to participate in the growth of KAPS. “Airports not only serve the aviation community, but they also are a driver of business in the community,” Groh says. “A successful airport needs the support of the community, and the Master Planning process allows all entities to come together and participate in its planning for the future.”
A current project at KAPS is the development of 10 T-hangars of different sizes. Most will accommodate single-engine airplanes, but four larger units were added to attract housing of larger twin aircraft and others such as a TBM. In the past, hangar rental was sacrificed to other airports due to insufficient space for larger aircraft. With a shortage of hangar space in the state and nationwide, pilots are on a waiting list at KAPS to base their aircraft at the Port’s facilities. Future projects also include a 1,000-foot runway extension and a new terminal building.
The growth of KAPS also allows the Port to welcome new industry-driving tenants, such as the recent addition of Beacon Aviation, an FAA-certified Airframe and Powerplant maintenance shop. “This is another enhancement that will bring more traffic to the airport that would otherwise not have had an incentive to touch down here,” Matthews says.