If you’re driving on the east side of Greenwood, it is hard to ignore the coming and going of more planes from the city airport.
Ever since the airport board decided to eliminate a fee that had been charged to every airplane that landed, more pilots are using the Greenwood airport.
They also are buying more fuel, which helps the airport pay for operating costs such as staff salaries and replenishing the facility’s fuel supply.
In the first two months of the year, the airport has had 223 runway operations, or takeoffs and landings. During the same time period one year ago, the airport had just 113 takeoffs and landings, airport manager Lori Curless said. The improvements can’t be attributed to a milder winter, officials said, but point to a change in the impression the city and its airports are leaving with pilots and travelers.
City officials decided to eliminate the landing fee, which ranged from no charge for a select style of planes to up to $225 for larger planes such as jets. Getting rid of landing fees is part of the airport’s continued efforts to promote and market itself as the premiere municipal airport in central Indiana, Curless said.
Curless and city officials took tours of about four other airports to examine their operations and analyze how it compared to the city’s airport. What they found was an opportunity to cut landing fees charged to pilots that could increase business since Greenwood would be the only airport in central Indiana, including Indianapolis International Airport, that doesn’t charge them, Curless said.
Curless wanted to be known for a hospitable airport in a flourishing area that doesn’t nickel and dime customers with extra fees, she said.
“By promoting free landing, we are attracting customers and what we’re finding out is pilots and companies are not only buying fuel from us, but they’re renting a car in Greenwood, staying at nearby hotels and spilling money into the city while they’re in town,” Curless said. “This all feeds into our big picture goal.”
The airport is currently in the midst of a multi-year expansion project that will upgrade the facility’s runways and hangars to accommodate more jets. More than $20 million is planned in improvements to the facility during the next five years, including a $19 million taxiway project that received a federal grant.
But before many of the improvements have even begun, jet traffic at the airport has already started to increase. The airport has sold almost 5,000 more gallons of fuel than it did at this time last year, city controller Adam Stone said. Fuel sales are up 31 percent from this time last year, Stone said.
And specifically, jet fuel sales are responsible for the majority of that increase. Since the start of this year, the airport has sold 51 percent more jet fuel than it had at this time last year, Stone said.
The airport also has entered into fuel agreements with companies that frequent the facility, Curless said. The contract fuel programs give loyal customers who leave and return often a discounted rate on fuel, she said.
Since implementing the changes, one company that would occasionally stop in at Greenwood has now made the airport its primary landing location when coming into central Indiana for meetings and conferences in Indianapolis, Curless said.
“When people fly into Greenwood, we are their first impression,” Curless said. “These changes are going to allow us to grow our appearance and move forward. When people land at the airport, the idea is, the city is open for business.”