GA Has Substantial Economic Impact at Illinois’ Top Downstate Airport

December 20, 2012

General aviation (GA) drives business activity at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport (SPI) in Springfield, IL, and airport officials say they will continue to invest in infrastructure to ensure the facility remains an important economic driver in the city.

General aviation currently accounts for 87 percent of overall traffic at SPI, said Mark Hanna, executive director of the Springfield Airport Authority, adding that 169 aircraft are based there. The ancillary activities associated with general aviation generate an economic boost, he said. Hanna pointed to the airport’s two fixed-base operators – McClelland Aviation and Landmark Aviation – as well as its on-field maintenance, repair and overhaul facility, operated by StandardAero.

With a stable workforce of around 200 skilled employees, “StandardAero contributes significantly to the economic output of the airport on an annual basis,” Hanna said. “That’s a key driver because there aren’t a lot of commercial airports in downstate Illinois that have a large MRO such as StandardAero, so we’re very fortunate and grateful that they maintain and continue their business here.”

Hanna said SPI recently put $2 million into new T-hangars and plans to make another significant investment in its GA aircraft storage capacity in the upcoming year.

Other developments may fuel additional growth. In October, Springfield gained status as a gateway airport for Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC, giving general aviation aircraft leaving the Illinois capital direct access to the U.S. capital.

“Because [SPI is] in the state capital, it has real significance for general aviation operators,” said NBAA Central Region Representative Bob Quinn. “Gateways have recently become increasingly important, and having gateway status is a credential that a lot of airports would like to have.”

According to the Illinois Statewide Aviation Economic Impact Study, released this summer by the Illinois Department of Transportation Aeronautics Division, SPI’s total economic impact of $563.6 million in 2010 includes 4,800 jobs and $212.5 million in payroll.