DIXON – A longer runway and a new hangar are in the future for Dixon's airport.
The upgrades are being considered as ways to increase revenue and traffic to the airport – Charles R. Walgreen Field – by bringing in larger aircraft, which would use more fuel and airport services, Dixon Airport Board member Brian Brown said.
Brown has been a member of the five-person board for about a year, and two other members have joined since him, he said, which changed the dynamic of the board that used to have long-tenured members.
When the board made a presentation to the Dixon City Council in February, during a city budget workshop, the runway and hangar were mentioned as possible ways to increase revenue.
During that meeting, Commissioner Colleen Brechon called the airport an "untapped resource" for the city, a stance she reiterated to this month.
"I'm a big proponent of increasing the size of the airport, at least in some respects," Brechon said. "I know it's a small community, but the airport is really an avenue that we haven't really looked at in a long time."
Airport expansion, she said, could mean that some businesses will consider Dixon when, in the past, they might have overlooked the city because of its runway size.
Corporate jets usually aren't allowed to land on a runway shorter than 5,000 feet, Brown said, which is a regulation from insurance companies.
The airport's longest runway is 3,899 feet.
Some of the corporate jets are capable of landing or taking off on the shorter runways, Brown said, if the conditions right and the plane's weight is kept low.
He didn't know how much an extended runway would cost, but said it would require some land acquisition.
A realistic timeframe for the new runway is 5 years, he said.
Most of the airport's revenue comes from office rent, hangar rent, fuel, and money from the federal government, Brown said. The ultralight planes that make up a majority of the airport's aircraft don't contribute as much toward revenue, he said, because many can run on the same fuel as cars, meaning they don't buy the airport's fuel.
A new hangar, which could be built in about 3 years, would allow for larger aircraft to be kept at the airport.
The current hangar, which is smaller than the board would like, doesn't accommodate modern aircraft. While the board could decide to continue to repair and modify it where possible, that could be more expensive than a new hangar, Brown said.
The board already has made finding new revenue a priority, with the addition of an Automated Weather Observing System, Brown said, and will look for new ways to attract more aircraft and even corporate jets beyond just the runway and hangar projects.
An Automated Weather Observing System alerts pilots in the air to weather conditions at the airport. Some pilots will bypass an airport that doesn't have one, Brown said.
The airport can be a tool for the city to bring in new businesses and jobs, Brechon said.
"I think some sort of change is really necessary," she said. "What can be done quickly should be done. But if takes longer, then that's the way it goes."