Airport busiest its been in years

Air freight travel is the busiest it’s been in years at the Neil Armstrong Airport.

“June was the busiest month we have had in 6 to 8 years,” Neil Armstrong Airport Manager Sean Stroh said. “It was a great month for us.”

Stroh said tremendous amounts of air freight to and from local industries have been transported through the airport. The volume of transported goods has increased significantly since the start of “The Great Recession.” Items have traveled to and from the airport from locations such as Georgia, South Carolina and Toronto.

“We first noticed it really picked up in June,” Stroh said. “Hopefully, that’s a sign that times are getting better. It’s the most air freight we have seen in a long time.

“We always say how good it is to have an airport in our backyard so close to local facilities,” he said. “It shows what an economic asset we have here.”

That same business has declined a little going into July, but Stroh said that is typical as many local industries have mandatory shutdown periods around the Fourth of July holiday.

“It’s starting to kick back up,” Stroh said.

He said leisure travel through the airport has remained relatively constant during the past few months.

“We’ve had no major dips or jumps,” Stroh said. “We aren’t anticipating any major change until the price of fuel goes up or down.”

While leisure use of the airport has remained steady, Stroh said it is fairly strong this year and has been on a continuous upswing throughout the past several years.

During a recent meeting with Auglaize County commissioners, Stroh said the airport suffered minimal damage during heavy storms which hit the county in late June.

He said power was lost for just a few minutes and then restored to everything except an Automated Weather Observation System (AWOS) put into the facility in 2008. Powered on a separate feed out of a Midwest Electric station, Stroh said power was out to the system for four days. A battery back-up only lasted for 12 hours.

“It wasn’t a huge impact but did affect our information dissemination,” Stroh said.

The system allows pilots to call-in prior to their arrival to the airport to check current weather conditions there. When the system is down, information is provided for other neighboring locations such as Lima, Fort Wayne or Dayton.

“It helps when we are having weather like we’ve been having because it can vary drastically by location,” Stroh said.

As soon as power to the transformer was restored, the AWOS was up and running again.

Stroh said the airport will be accepting bids from consulting firms for upcoming projects. Such contracts are renewed every five years and their current one with Delta Airport has expired.

“We’ve worked with them since the late 1990s,” Stroh said.

He said Delta has worked with the airport on most of its major upgrades and for preliminary plans for a new terminal building and utilities going to it.

Their focus is on how infrastructure affects air travel.

Also at the facility, plans are to take down 24 ash trees alongside the terminal building and roadway.

Emerald ash borer was discovered in the trees this spring. The highly destructive, invasive species has killed up to 100 million ash trees to date and threatens to kill most of the 7.5 billion ash trees throughout North America. Damage estimates are approximately $3.5 billion annually throughout the United States, with Ohio one of the heaviest hit areas.