Multimillion-dollar airport project expected to make catching a charter out of Lawrence easier
photo by: Submitted photo/Lloyd Hetrick
A multimillion-dollar construction project at Lawrence Municipal Airport is expected to open the door to more charter jet travel options for area residents.
City officials recently issued building permits for $2.1 million worth of construction for a new aircraft hangar and office building just east of the terminal building at the Lawrence Municipal Airport in North Lawrence.
The building will house at least two new aircraft that will be the backbone of a new charter air service based at the airport.
“It will be a big step up for us,” said Lloyd Hetrick, who owns Hetrick Air Services and has a contract to operate the city-owned airport.
Hetrick also is behind the new charter service, and is constructing the nearly 23,000-square-foot hangar, in part, to house a new jet and other aircraft that will be used for the charter service.
Hetrick said he has offered a limited charter service for years. But it basically has been restricted to flights on a single-engine plane that can only accommodate up to three adults.
“We weren’t actively promoting the service, though,” Hetrick said. “Not too many people want to take a charter in a (single-engine plane.)”
photo by: Jackson Barton
photo by: Jackson Barton
For the new service, Hetrick has purchased a Hawker jet that can seat nine passengers. He’s also purchased a King Air 350 that also can accommodate nine passengers.
He said he expects the charter service to immediately attract upper-class business travelers from Kansas City. He said a shortage of hangar space in Kansas City has made it difficult to secure charter flights. Eventually, he thinks a nice market for charter travel will develop in Lawrence. He said he’s confident there are business executives in town who already would use the service.
“They just really haven’t had the capability in the past,” Hetrick said. “They just had to try to work something out in Kansas City, and that is difficult.”
Depending on rates, which haven’t been announced yet, some nonbusiness travelers also may take advantage of the options, especially if they can split the costs between nine people.
Hetrick hopes to begin the new service before the end of the year. He currently is working to get FAA approval for the service and the new pilots he has hired.
Unlike past hangar projects at the airport, the city is not financing the construction of this facility. Hetrick is privately financing the project, although the city continues to own the ground the hangar sits upon.
Hetrick, who has been the contracted operator of the airport since 1983, said he thought the time was right to make a major investment. He said the airport has been growing in use. It now has about 50 aircraft based at the facility. Plus, he said the airport is attracting a greater number of larger, more expensive jets, whose owners don’t really like them to sit outside. Hetrick said he’ll likely rent part of the hangar space to expensive jets that just need a secure place overnight.
“We have jets coming out here that are in the $20 million to $30 million range,” Hetrick said. “They will pay the price to put them inside when the bad weather comes along.”
Hetrick said in addition to his charter aircraft, the building is expected to be the permanent home for several other planes or jets. How many is difficult to predict because he said a single Gulfstream jet, for instance, would occupy about 75 percent of the space. He said the hangar likely will allow about 10 to 15 additional aircraft to be permanently based at the airport.
Greater jet traffic is a real possibility at the airport, Hetrick said. He said NetJets, the company that allows people to own a fractional share of a jet, frequently has jets in Lawrence. Also, a reasonable number of KU alumni have larger jets that are now flying into Lawrence. Billionaire investor David Booth, for instance, is said to frequently fly into the airport.
In the longer term, Hetrick said he would like to see the city work with the FAA to get approval for longer runways — another 400 feet would be significant — to allow for larger jet traffic.
Hetrick also said he thinks the airport could accommodate at least two more hangars in the intermediate term to house more aircraft.
As for the hangar under construction, it also will include about 1,600 square feet of office space. He said that could be rented out to an aviation company, or it might become a flight desk space for the professional pilots who come through Lawrence and need a place to complete their paperwork. He said the new hangar also will have a dedicated area for pilots to rest and get their required amount of sleep.
Hetrick said he hopes the hangar will be available to start storing aircraft in October and will be completely finished by the end of the year.