Sherman leaders are asking the community to share their vision for the future of Sherman Municipal Airport in years to come. The city recently held a public meeting to receive feedback from pilots and members of the aviation community as a part of plans to develop a long-term master plan for the small municipal airport.
“Among the discussions with current management is that we want the aviation community to know that we want a viable airport — we just don’t want hodge podge out there,”Assistant City Manager Terrence Steele said earlier this month.
The mid-May meeting represented the first public discussion on a long-term plan for the airport. Officials with consulting firm Corgan met with city representatives and select members of the local aviation community prior to the open meeting in order to draft a tentative set of goals and priorities for the proposed plan.
The city’s interest in a cohesive plan for its municipal airport first started earlier this year following reforms and rate adjustments by North Texas Regional Airport — Perrin Field. Over the past two years, NTRA has sought to update its rates to better reflect the current market, which received push back from area pilots and hangar owners.
“It is getting too expensive out there and they are really not wanted out there,” Steele said.
In addition to interest from individual aviators, outside development has also spurred interest by the city in ensuring development is controlled and organized.
The city was recently approached by a developer with plans to build an aviation-centered community adjacent to the airport that would feature homes with attached hangars for personal aircraft. Steele noted that the proposed development was not initially a part of the plan priorities, but access rights for adjacent developments was added as a tentative priority following the meeting.
Consultants entered into the meeting with a loose set of priorities and a general path and speed for development for the future. Among these priorities was the goal of becoming a major reliever airport for the Dallas-Fort Worth market and to grow to having 50 aircraft based at the airport in five years. They hope to have 75 aircraft within the next decade.
The consultants estimated that the airport currently has about 20 based aircraft between its 18 hangar units, common hangar building and other spaces. In addition to the based aircraft, about 20 or more aircraft are currently sitting on a waiting list for space to free up.
Consultant Michael Santana said there were multiple ways the city could address this demand ranging from building large quantities of hangar space immediately to taking a more gradual approach to development. Santana suggested the more gradual approach as it protects the city from over extending and potentially over estimating market demand. However, he noted that this trajectory would put the airport at about 40 aircraft tenants by the year 2040.
“That’s why we are saying we may need to adjust and reevaluate our goals and objectives,” he said.
This raised some concerns from the audience, who felt the estimations on market demand may be more conservative than the real demand for space.
Pilot Jim Smisek said some pilots were alarmed by previous plans by the city to close the airport and moved their aircraft to smaller, private spaces throughout the region. These pilots likely wouldn’t be on any waiting list, but could be approached about space at the airport, if it became available.
“Those aircraft that were here are now sitting at home on private runways,” he said.
This mirrored other concerns by pilots who wanted some promise that the airport would remain open for business.
“If we are willing to invest in a master plan, I hope the message it says to the aviation community is there are no plans to close that airport, as there were 15 years ago,” Steele said.
Steele added that this did not mean that the city would be going into this project alone and would be financing these improvements. However, it would not be opposed to partnerships were both public and private partners are involved.
“Right now, the city does not plan to build hangars, but we are willing to go into a public-private partnership,” Steele said. “But understand that we don’t want to gouge anybody, but if you put a hangar out there and expect the facilities and runways maintained, that has to be covered,” he said.
Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @mhutchinsHD on Twitter.