Home Breaking News Howard County airport improvements continue

Howard County airport improvements continue

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By Don Hall

News-Leader staff

Progress is continuing on the improvements at the Howard County airport, County Judge Brent Pinkerton said. 

The six new hangars are about 70% complete, and five of them are already spoken for by local pilots who have been keeping their airplanes in Hope or Texarkana, according to Kelly Wyndham, administrative assistant to Pinkerton.

Why should the average Howard County resident care about that, since most of them never even see the airport? The answer to that is simple: jobs.

Ever since Husqvarna announced that it would be leaving Nashville by the end of 2024, city and county leaders have been actively recruiting new industry. 

Companies considering expanding into the area need a number of things, said Judge Pinkerton: a stable work force, quality schools and parks, good health care, and a good airport. “The airport is another piece of the puzzle to get industry here,” he added.

Executives of companies who want to expand into Nashville aren’t going to land in Texarkana and rent a car. “When you’re trying to recruit someone, that doesn’t make a good first impression,” Pinkerton said.

But what do hangars have to do with that? This answer, once again, is simple: money.

While the state has paid about 75% of the cost of the new hangars, the county gets to keep all of the rental income, but that pales in comparison to the real reason the airport needs hangar space.

“Our goal is to get 10 airplanes registered at the Howard County Airport,” said Pinkerton. With 10 aircraft listing Howard County as their home airport, the FAA will begin giving the county $150,000 each year in grants for airport maintenance and improvements.

Currently, there are six aircraft registered at the airport; soon, with the new hangars, there will be at least 11. 

What sort of improvements are planned with the annual $150,000 in grants the county will receive from the FAA?

The most pressing need, as the Arkansas Division of Aeronautics recently pointed out to Pinkerton, is upgrading the runway. “At some point it’s going to need to be completely resurfaced, and that’s not going to be cheap.”

The FAA annual grant money can be carried over year to year if there’s a major expenditure coming up, like resurfacing. “That allows us to have money in the bank,” Pinkerton said.

What other improvements are planned for the future?

Just like drivers need an occasional bathroom break, so do pilots. Howard County Airport is one of the few public airports in Arkansas without restrooms. One of the new hangars will have public restrooms, a true relief for cross-country fliers.

Next would be a way for visiting pilots and their passengers to get around in Howard County.

“We’ve had a lot of calls over the last 16 months since I came into office from pilots coming in to do business around Nashville and Murfreesboro,” said Pinkerton. 

Right now there’s no way for them to get around in Howard County, for business or for pleasure, unless someone local picks them up at the airport. A courtesy car solves that.

Almost every airport in Arkansas has one or two courtesy cars available for pilots to use for ground transportation. Most courtesy cars are retired sheriff’s department or city police cruisers, and are a very cost-effective and needed addition.

After a courtesy car would be a pilots’ lounge. Flying can be stressful, and a simple lounge would give pilots passing over Howard County a place to stop and rest, or a place where they could wait out bad weather.

Even for those who will never take off from or land at Howard County Airport, it’s an important part of economic growth for the town and the County. New jobs benefit everyone, and a good airport is essential to attract new businesses. It’s all part of the puzzle, as Pinkerton points out.

“Without a good airport, we could be losing industry to other places. We want to have the best that we can.”

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