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Sunday, July 14, 2019

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South Lafourche Airport Sees Growth Spurt

South Lafourche Airport Sees Growth Spurt

The South Lafourche Leonard Miller, Jr. Airport is undergoing improvements and has experienced a growth spurt. Picture courtesy of GLPC

Since being acquired by the Greater Lafourche Port Commission in 2001, the South Lafourche Leonard Miller, Jr. Airport has been undergoing a rapid transformation from small airport hub to a full-fledged air transport facility. 

After acquiring the airport the commission has pumped more than $15 million into improvements at the Galliano facility, improvements that have led to an increase in traffic at the airport by over 4,000 percent in the last 12 years.

In addition to the airport purchase, the port commission also acquired the surrounding 1,200 acres, which has allowed fixed wing operators to have a permanent presence at the airport. 

Plans also call for an industrial park to be developed on the site adjoining the air facility. 

In 2007, the airport runway was extended in length from 3,800 feet to 6,500 feet, allowing larger planes to land including a 737 model if necessary. 

The facility is permitted to extend the runway to 8,000 feet, which would allow the largest corporate jets to land in addition to heavier type cargo planes.

In order to accommodate even heavier military type cargo aircraft, the airport is investigating ways to strengthen the runway in order to be able to land aircraft with weights up to 135,000 pounds.  The current runways are certified for 75,000 pounds. 

Once the runway extension was completed, a parallel taxiway was extended to 6,500 feet at a cost of $4.7 million and an instrument landing system (ILS) was completed in 2012.  Starting in November, a project will begin where the ramp, essentially a parking area for airplanes, will be increased in size by 50 percent. 

In January 2014, construction is scheduled to begin on a new $1.5 million; 3,000 square foot public terminal.   Inside will be public space as well as pilot and passenger lounges and offices for airport operations and harbor police. 

These improvements have led to new tenants seeking fixed space at the airport, including a major oil company that is expected to begin air operations on a 40-acre tract in September.

According to airport director Joe Wheeler, this new tenant alone will double the amount of aircraft based at the airport and will double the amount of monthly operations. 

An operation is considered to be either a takeoff or landing and the airport has seen exponential growth in the last decade in this area.  In 2001, the facility had one based aircraft and 500 operations a year.  As of 2013, the airport will have over 70 based aircraft and conduct nearly 21,000 operations a year. 

“It’s entirely possible, even likely, that at some point in the not too distant future that this airport could get to the threshold of 95,000 operations a year, which is the approximate minimum number that would allow us to put a control tower on the grounds,” said Wheeler.  “We’re growing quickly due to our unique location within a levee system and our proximity to the port as well as to excellent hunting and fishing grounds.  The future looks good.”