Positioning a Virginia Airport for Landing More and Bigger Clients
While on-time takeoffs and landings are big on the lists of most casual flyers, owners of private and corporate aircraft look for world-class service and hangar space when selecting an airport. The Shenandoah Valley Airport (SHD) was high on the first and beyond capacity on the second when they approached USDA Rural Development (RD) about a loan to build a new structure on their 400-acre property.
SHD is the smallest of Virginia’s nine commercial service airports but generates about $70 million in economic activity annually. The facility attracts significant corporate business within their coverage area of Harrisonburg, Staunton, Waynesboro and Rockingham and Augusta counties.
“People put a lot of money into aircraft and don’t want them sitting outside,” said SHD Fixed Base Operations Manager Chris Botkin. “With 59 t-hangars, three corporate hangars and about 100 aircraft based here, we’re completely full and have a substantial waiting list.”
Virginia RD approved a $3,086,500 Community Facilities Direct Loan to construct a new hangar and replace aging fuel farm tanks in late 2018. The Virginia Department of Aviation also provided a $490,642 grant to help cover the costs. RD Area Specialist Robert Wilson shepherded the project through supply chain and funding issues.
“SHD is one of several airport upgrades/expansions we’re investing in to help strengthen local economies,” says Wilson. “We’re also working active projects to attract new business to Culpeper, Luray and Winchester, and this timeline is fairly common.”
The new hangar is now under construction and should be complete in June. The heated structure will have a small lobby area, office space and conference room as well as a taller door to accommodate larger aircraft. The fuel farm upgrade, which was postponed due to unexpectedly high building and site preparation costs, will be added back into the scope of work using other funding sources.
The full-service airport offers daily commercial flights and amenities like on-site car rentals, an on-demand shuttle and free parking. A team of about 15 full-time and 10 part-time employees seamlessly handles 80-100 operations per day (takeoffs and landings) on their 6,002-foot runway.
“A lot of airports have standalone businesses that provide various services,” says Airport Executive Director Lisa Botkin. “We do all of that ourselves so we can control the product and customer experience. Most of our staff have over 15 years of service. That low turnover speaks volumes.”
Chris adds that he sleeps well at night knowing that customers are sharing regular reports about what SHD is doing well. He will also be watching to see how their business model shifts with the added capacity.
“Large companies fly in all the time,” says Chris. “When they are looking for a new location to build or expand, SHD gives them the first impression of our community. We take being the gateway for Shenandoah Valley economic development very seriously.”
Photo Caption: Fixed Base Operations Manager Chris Botkin (left) gives Area 2 Specialist Robert Wilson a tour of the hangar under construction.