Soaring airport business good news for Boonville

The Jesse Viertel Memorial Airport is growing both in demand and size.
Thursday, February 19, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:22 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 13, 2008

Wayne and Doris Shoemaker keep a small airplane in a hangar at the Jesse Viertel Memorial Airport near Boonville. The Columbia couple can make it from their home off of Scott Boulevard to the Boonville airport in 20 minutes — considerably faster than the time it would take to drive to Columbia Regional Airport.

It’s not just convenience that attracts the Shoemakers to the Boonville airport. They know most everyone by sight and enjoy the friendly atmosphere.

The Shoemakers, both of whom are licensed pilots, keep the four-passenger Cessna 182 owned by the Daniel Boone Flight Club, of which Wayne is the president, in a community hangar, but other pilots store their flying machines in the airport’s 20 T-hangars, which house individual planes and include additional room for storage.

Hangars apart of Boonville community

Flight instructor John Gagliardi said the hangars contribute to the “community feel” of the airport. On a nice day, pilots and their families tailgate and socialize outside the hangars.

The hangars, built in 2001, are full, and there is a waiting list for more. David Bradley, the airport manager, said that of the 20 new hangars the airport wants to build, 12 could be filled before the airport even advertised them.

The Boonville airport has seen more than $3 million in improvements since 2000, according to a recent memo to the City Council. The current hangars are one of those improvements. The runway has also been widened and extended, a parallel taxiway and concrete ramps were added and groundwork has been done in preparation for the requested hangars. Also, the airport census has doubled since 2000, as evidenced by an increase in fuel sales.

Wayne Shoemaker has been going to the airport for 15 years. “It’s remarkable, the improvements they’ve made,” he said.

The Jesse Viertel Memorial Airport, which is owned by the city and managed by Tig Air Aviation Inc., allows local businesses, such as Huebert Fiberboard and the Isle of Capri casino, to fly cargo to within minutes of their location. Gagliardi said the airport does business with corporate as well as private airplanes. From a financial standpoint, the revenue generated from fuel sales and hangar rentals contributes to the city’s economic stability. The improvements planned for the airport would help attract more business and more revenue to the city of Boonville.

Airport to install new weather system

The airport will soon become even more attractive — not only to pilots such as the Shoemakers, but to corporate and charter pilots as well. The city is using a $150,000 federal grant — and kicking in $16,667 of its own money — to install an Automatic Weather Observation System. The new weather system will broadcast sky conditions, visibility, barometric pressure, precipitation and any other relevant information to pilots. Other weather systems are in place at airports serving Sedalia, Columbia and Moberly.

The new weather system would allow pilots to judge the landing and safety conditions of the Boonville airport and to detour to another airport if conditions are unsafe. The Boonville weather system will automatically compile and broadcast current sky conditions, although it will not be able to provide forecasts.

The acquisition of an automated weather system is only one item on the list of requested improvements and additions to the Boonville airport for this budget year. Among those items are new hangars, the installation of underground drains, an entrance sign at Pearre Lane and the airport access road and landscaping on the airport property.

The airport would also like a new terminal building, both to present a more professional image to the pilots passing through and to provide nicer facilities for the flight instruction school.

Tracy Walkup, Boonville city administrator, said these suggestions for additions and improvements to the airport will be reviewed to be placed in next year’s budget.

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