Stafford Regional Airport prepares for changes
Stafford Regional Airport has been around for more than a decade, but not everyone in Stafford County knows about it.
“I think most people in the county are not aware of the airport because Stafford is a commuting community,” says Hank Scharpenberg, chairman of the Stafford Regional Airport Authority. “Something like the airport doesn’t enter into their visibility until it provides a capability or it’s perceived to be an impediment, and, I think, now we are getting into the capability arena by the contribution we are making to the surrounding community.”
The airport is adding new features meant to attract more corporate customers and drive economic development in the Fredericksburg area.
The most noticeable change will be the airport’s 10,000-square-foot terminal, slated to be finished next month. “It’s a really a visible statement of intent by the municipalities of ‘Do we want an airport? Are we serious about having one, or, do you want us to be judged by a triple-wide mobile home?’ which was the terminal from inception until now,” Scharpenberg says.
The airport received a $2.1 million grant from the Virginia Department of Aviation and a $1.4 million loan from Stafford County to build the terminal.
The airport also put its Instrument Landing System back online this summer, which ensures pilots safely land on the runway in all types of weather. The system was taken offline in 2008 because of trees in the glide path. The trees have been removed.
In addition, the airport is extending its runway from 5,000 to 6,000 feet. The expansion would allow larger corporate jets to operate at the airport. These jets also would buy more fuel from the airport.
Scharpenberg says several well-known companies have expressed interest in building facilities for their aviation units once the runway expansion begins. Stafford Airport is about to begin environmental studies that are required before it can start the expansion. If everything goes as planned, construction should start at the end of 2015 or early 2016, Scharpenberg says.
In 2012 Stafford Regional Airport had 4,261 aircraft arrivals, up slightly from 4,245 in 2011. There were 2,861 aircraft arrivals at the airport from January until August of this year.