Airport terminal to double in 2011Published 6:30pm Friday, April 1, 2011
T.C. Russell Field Airport may seem like a small, country airport that only local residents use, but that is far from the truth.
In fact, the airport is used primiarly for business transit, meaning the planes do not originate from Alexander City. Included with that is a large number of corporate jets and pilots that stop here either to refuel or to make a business trip to the area.
Airport Manager Mike Smith, a retired corporate pilot, said he understands the needs of the business community, and those needs are much simpler than you might think.
“Clean bathrooms,” Smith said. “It’s just like when you or I go on a trip … That’s probably one of the biggest things they look for when they come to any airport.”
In addition, Smith said business people value convenience when coming to the airport.
“Business executives are looking for a way to get in and out as quickly as possible,” Smith said. “They usually fly to the closest airport so they have the least amount of car travel possible. Some will even want to meet right here in the airport terminal. They will stop here for a conference and will leave as soon as the meeting is over.”
Convenience and meeting space are two points Smith has covered in plans to revamp the airport’s current terminal. In 2011, the city will replace its 40-year-old facility thanks to a matching grant with the state aeronautics and the Alabama Department of Transportation.
The new half million dollar facility will be twice as large as the current terminal building. Smith sees this new building as an opportunity to expand the city’s economic development.
The building includes a state-of-the-art conference room and a separate pilot’s lounge to let pilots get a chance to relax.
“Corporate pilots would like to rest during a business conference because they usually got up around 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. that morning,” Smith said. “They’re tired and they want to try to get a nap before they have to fly out. Now, the only place we have to rest is in our waiting room out front, but the new terminal will have a separate lounge where they can rest, watch TV or even shower if they need to.”
One other benefit of the new terminal would be a small office with a telephone that could be used as a temporary headquarters for a new business.
The airport also plans to finish its parallel taxiway in 2012.
“Having the complete parallel taxiway will make it easier for planes to take off because they won’t have to turn around at the end of the runway. Instead they will be able to turn onto the runway and take off.”
Smith said the Russell Field enjoys a lot of refuling traffic.
“Our prices for jet fuel are usually cheaper than most of the airports around us,” Smith said. “When pilots are making a flight plan for a flight where they’ll have to refuel, they check to see who has the cheapest fuel. Although we might not be exactly along the flight plan, they may change their route to stop here for cheaper fuel.”
The airport receives high customer service marks from its customers at www.airnav.com, which lists airports across the country.
“I do my best to treat people right,” Smith said. “I want to make a good impression on them because the airport is their first impression of the area. Many of our customers are business executives. If they are impressed, they might decide that this is the place where they want to do business.”
Alexander City’s Airport
FAA Identifier: KALX
Elevation: 686 ft. (209.1 m)
Local weather: 256-329-1820
Montgomery Approach & Departure: 121.2
Dimensions: 5,425 x 96 ft. / 1654 x 29 m
Surface: asphalt/grooved, in good condition
Airport Operational Statistics
Aircraft based on the field: 32
Aircraft operations: average 91/day for 12-month period ending Dec. 9, 2009
79% transient general aviation
12% local general aviation
Owner: City of Alexander City
Manager: Mike Smith
Contact phone number: 256-329-9057
On-call phone: 256-392-2452