Feburary 24, 2012

On the west bank of the Kennebec River in Maine, the Waterville Municipal Airport is slated for improvements city officials hope will attract more business aircraft.

“The planned improvements open up vast opportunities for mid-Maine businesses,” said Darryl Sterling of the Central Maine Growth Council. “A vibrant airport…is the first introduction to Waterville for many, and we want it to be impressive.”

Even with a year-round population of fewer than 15,000, Waterville is the commercial, medical and cultural center for a broad swath of central Maine. In recent years, the popularity of recreational facilities around Waterville has encouraged business growth, which in turn has drawn more business aircraft to the Waterville Robert LaFleur Municipal Airport (KWVL). The airport’s 5,500 foot runway is the longest in central Maine.

Waterville Municipal has a relatively high percentage of business traffic; the latest official figures from the Federal Aviation Administration show that of 13,500 annual takeoffs or landings at Waterville in the past year, 5,500 were “itinerant,” or from outside the area. A complement of four separate instrument approaches, including one full ILS, give the airport an advantage on marginal weather days.

“We see people fly in for various business activities, the trade shows and the auctions,” said assistant airport manager Randy Marshall. “Also lots of engineers from companies doing projects locally or bringing in potential clients to show them the local projects they’ve done.”

Additionally, a thriving AirLink Aviation flight school on the airport has grown from one aircraft last year to five. A United Parcel Service cargo airplane carries cargo in and out six days a week, and the city recently built an industrial park adjacent to the airport. Last year, a crew of city workers spent days smoothing the surface of runway 5/23 to keep the surface acceptable until repaving in 2013-14.

Improvements scheduled for the airport include trimming trees obstructing a clear approach to runways and repaving of the shorter runway this summer. Development of a marketing plan and partnerships with restaurants and other area businesses are also under consideration.

“Most communities of any size have their own airport, but Waterville is also lucky to have city officials who appreciate what a valuable asset the airport is and are willing to improve it,” said Marshall. “It’s a big picture effort, including properly trained and professional staff.”