Monett airport activity rebounds in early 2014; Business flights running at peak levels

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

times-news@monett-times.com

After the number of business-day weekday flights at the Monett Regional Airport dropped by almost 900 last year, 2014 has started with a significant upswing in activity.

In the first five months of the year, the number of documented flights has increased by more than 200, surpassing all previous years except the record set in 2012.

According to numbers kept by the airport staff, the most significant change surfaced in the number of business flights. Planes flying for Jack Henry and Associates and EFCO Corporation totaled 528, down 106 from a year ago, but higher than the five-month totals recorded from 2008 through 2012. Prior to 2008, Monett's most active airport-using industries typically logged tallies surpassing 500.

Far more unusual, the count of business-related flights into Monett in the same period totaled 1,110 for an all-time record. The tally rose by 318, or 40 percent from a year ago.

Combining all the business flights totaled 1,630, a new record for the beginning of the calendar year. The sum topped the 2012 record by more than 500 and ran 4-1/4 times more than the low mark in 2009 after the economic downturn.

"We have quite a bit of business traffic coming in and out," said Howard Frazier, airport superintendent. "You don't know when they'll come, but they're flying here to do business locally."

For example, Frazier named SAP Transportation Management, a trucking firm that hauls metal for Hydro Aluminum; Regal-Beloit, an electric motor firm with a major division in Springfield and headquarters in Beloit, Wis.; Macklanburg-Duncan, a weatherproofing firm based in Oklahoma City and "bankers from all over." Frazier said he more typically sees flights from Ag Forte, bringing in company officials from Minnesota; Schreiber Foods, from Green Bay, Wis.; and representatives from Pella, EFCO's parent company from Pella, Iowa.

Flights of planes hangared in Monett also saw an upswing, up by 41 from a year ago to 376. Frazier said more than half the planes in Monett's hangars are used for business purposes. Local businesses with planes at Monett include Mark Industries, 3D Corporate Solutions, R.M. Industries, Botts Construction, Eagle Broadcasting and attorneys.

Adding to the business traffic has been more flights this spring by crop dusters spraying area row crops. Several flight instructors and students continue flying into Monett, from Aurora, Joplin and Ava. An airplane club from Cassville makes Monett one of its regular stops.

Fuel sales have also picked up. Prices vary with each shipment, Frazier said, just like at the gas station for cars, but prices have again become more affordable. Currently, aviation gas has sold for $5.23 a gallon and jet fuel for $4.51 a gallon.

Non-business flights into Monett totaled 236 for the period, down 34 from a year ago, the lowest number since the city began keeping records in 2005. Non-business flights totaled 612, up eight from a year ago.

"Nobody's hardly flying for fun," Frazier said. "You've got to be making money with the planes."

All flights in and out for the period came to 2,250, the second highest sum on record, up 220 or 3 percent from last year, one more than in 2010 and still 211 short of the record in 2012. Flights after hours, especially by Jack Henry planes, raise the actual total much higher, Frazier added.

"I think I could fill another hangar if I had one," he said. "I've had to turn down some rentals."

Activity by airport crews have concentrated on maintaining lighting, fuel rental equipment, land and customers. Frazier noted as soon as the city purchases land for the airport expansion, he leases the houses. Land is leased for quick-cut hay or cattle use, with a focus on keeping down the wildlife near the airport.

"All the money goes into a special fund to help further the project," Frazier said. "There's always something to do. Overall I believe the airport is still a good tool for the community."

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