By Bethany J. Royer
PIQUA — City Manager Gary Huff touched base on the potential of the municipal airport/Hartzell Field inclusion into the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems or NPIAS at Tuesday’s commission meeting. A distinction that would allow the airport on West State Route 185 to seek federal aid for capital improvement and annual maintenance funds.
According to Huff, nearly 70 corporations utilize the municipal airport so as to take advantage of the services provided by Hartzell Propeller Inc., such as manufacturing, conversions and/or certification. Some of those include the Ohio State Highway Patrol, American Champion Aircraft, Blackhawk Engine Conversions, Corning Glass, Menards Home Improvement, Sunset Meats, J Crane, and C & C Aviation.
Currently, the airport receives no state or federal funding due to a lack of NPIAS designation and a proximity ruling from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The latter prohibits additional airports being brought into the NPIAS system that are located within 30 minutes of another NPIAS airport, in this case, the Sidney airport.
After some research, Huff found previous conversations with the FAA regarding NPIAS inclusion had consisted of discrepancies on the driving distance between the Piqua Municipal Airport and that of Sidney’s airport. The city of Piqua found it to be more than 30 minutes in driving distance whereas, “They drove it and it was less than 30 minutes so they have maintained that we could not get into that (NPIAS),” explained Huff, thus making Piqua ineligible for NPIAS, along with the associated state and federal funding.
However, with the world leader in propeller manufacturing and design right here in Piqua, Hartzell Propeller Inc., the fixed base operator at the municipal airport, it did not make sense to Huff to hinder potential development either at the airport or for Hartzell due to distance.
“When you look at the companies that come out there, it is pretty significant,” continued Huff as Hartzell has grown, expanding into Texas, California, and Alabama, works in drone technology, and were approved in February for a new type of propeller design by the FAA, among other technology endeavors. “That makes the airport significant.”
In March, Huff sent a letter to the FAA listing the national significance of the Piqua airport, the many businesses it serves and requested a waiver for entry into the NPIAS. Hartzell Propeller Inc. backed the letter as a partner in the city’s pursuit, as did speaker John Boehner’s office.
Should the city secure NPIAS designation, it could prove a game changer. Funds could be used to lengthen the runway which would aid not only Hartzell but other businesses wanting to come into the area, equating to a boost to the local economy. For now, it is a wait and see as to a response from the FAA.
Bethany J. Royer may be reached at (937) 773-2721 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall