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Cleared for takeoff
The airport has ambitious plans as it reaches 50 years old.
taxiway drawing
The work completed this year paved two taxiways and graded for a third to the east. - photo by Mead & Hunt

The Platteville Municipal Airport is celebrating its 50th anniversary with the first phase of an expansion project.

A ribbon-cutting was held for the project Monday afternoon in less than ideal flying weather. The participants weren’t able to see the two new taxiways and provisions for a third. The taxiways are to accommodate future construction of up to 10 3,600-square-foot hangars, as well as two 10-unit T-hangars.

By 2020, those who oversee the airport hope that those hangars will be built, the T-hangars will be full, and the current 4,000-foot runway, known as Runway 15/33, will be extended to 5,000 feet.

“We’ll continue to expand here,” said Bill Kloster, a member of the city Airport Commission, who believes the Platteville airport is ideally suited to get spillover use from larger airports as flyers seek a quicker entry to and exit from the airport.

The project, which includes provisions for future installation of power and fiberoptic lines underneath the taxiways, was 95 percent funded by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. The city paid for 5 percent of the $870,000 cost through airport revenues. The project came in significantly below the $1 million budget.

State Sen. Dale Schultz (R–Richland Center), who took part in the ribbon-cutting, called the project “reinvestment in the future, and that’s what Platteville has done the last 20 years.”

The taxiway expansion came one year after improvements to the airport’s runways in 2013. Runway 15/33 is 4,000 feet long, while the airport’s first runway, Runway 7/25, is 3,600 feet long. The improvements included expanded lighting to allow more night flights.

The airport offers hangar rental space and aviation fuel sales, including jet fuel, through Hughes Aviation. A&A Aviation rents planes, sells flight lessons and offers aircraft maintenance.

While most student pilots are young adults or empty-nesters, business use of airplanes is taking off, so to speak.

“People who really cultivate aviation to their potential are people who use it for business purposes,” said A&A’s Alaine Olthafer-Lange, who cited a developer who flies in from another state for meetings.

The airport had almost 5,900 takeoffs and landings and sold more than 300,000 gallons of aviation fuel in 2013, according to the Airport Commission.

More than half of airport operating revenues comes from fuel sales, with one-third from cropland rental and the rest from hangar rental.

The airport’s six-year master plan includes expansion of Runway 15/33. Dirt that was excavated to grade the taxiways is now at the end of 15/33 for future use to grade the extra 1,000 feet.

Schultz said a longer runway would provide “a huge shot in the arm for economic development.”

Corporate jets require runways longer than 4,000 feet, according to FAA guidelines.

Others have more expansive thoughts. Former Platteville Ald. Hap Daus wants to see flight-related businesses locate at the airport. Certain aircraft equipment work is available no closer than Waukesha or Spencer, Iowa.

“Iowa [flyers] go through Platteville to get to EAA,” the Experimental Aircraft Association annual convention in Oshkosh, said Daus. “So there’s no reason why you couldn’t have them stop for gas and for repairs.”