Pilots buy airport to save, expand it

December 17, 2008

Festus Memorial Airport - photo courtesy of City of Festus Festus Memorial Airport - photo courtesy of City of Festus, Missouri

When the city of Festus hired a real estate company to sell Festus Memorial, area pilots knew they would have to act swiftly to save the only public-use airport in their Jefferson County.

But when a series of more traditional attempts to save the airport failed, the pilots, under the banner of Citizens for Airport Economic Expansion (CAEE), decided to purchase the airport themselves. A group of investors, working with a major St. Louis bank, offered $2.275 million for the property.

AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Terry Propst, a member of CAEE since its inception in 2004, says pilots spoke to the mayor, the governor, and everyone in between before finding a way to keep the airport open.

A study conducted in collaboration with the Missouri Department of Transportation determined that the best way to increase the value of the airport to the community would be to expand the 2,200-foot runway to 5,000 feet and build an industrial park on adjacent land.

While the CAEE knows it has its work cut out, members are optimistic that they can create a vibrant commercial, industrial, and recreational area in one of the state’s fastest growing counties.

“Surveys tell us that protecting airports is a top priority for our members,” said Heidi Williams, AOPA senior director of airports. “Pilots actually buying an airport to keep it open can’t happen every day, but it demonstrates the commitment of our members!”

Show your commitment to your airport. See if your airport has an Airport Support Network volunteer. If not, consider signing up or nominating someone else.