It’s been more than four months since 80-mile-an-hour winds ripped through the Johnson County Executive Airport, but it could still be another year before the airport is back up to business as usual.
Straight-line winds upended planes and damaged or destroyed five hangar buildings March 6, but removing the property from the wreckage has proven to be a tricky process that has taken months, said Aaron Otto, executive director of the county airports. The county is only now to the point of setting a budget for rebuilding or repairing those hangars.
No cumulative damage amount has been figured for the hangars, the lost rental space and business disruption at an airport that is one of the busiest in the area. But the commission approved a project account of $3.2 million for repairing or rebuilding the five hangar buildings at its meeting Thursday. And lost revenue from hangar rental is about $28,000 per month, Otto said.
Airport officials do not yet know how much insurance will cover. If all the damage isn’t covered, the county will look to airport funds to make up the difference.
Repair work has been slow going because each hangar door had to be individually powered and carefully opened to remove the plane and other property inside, Otto said. Of the damaged hangars, two – nicknamed Romeo and Oscar – can be repaired. The Tango hangar was completely destroyed, and two others, Papa and Sierra, were too badly damaged to be repaired and must be rebuilt.
In the meantime, people who lost their storage areas are on a wait list for the rebuilt space. They’ll be first on a list that was already two to three years long, according to the county’s website.
The commission overseeing the airport has considered adding hangar space and expansion is in the long-term master plan, Otto said. But so far the cost of earthwork for more hangar space has been too great to make more hangars practical, he said.
Johnson County has two airports. Executive is at 151st Street and Pflumm Road in Olathe and the New Century AirCenter is in Gardner. The airports are funded by user fees from hangar rental and from business tenants.
But although they are small in comparison to Kansas City International, the county’s two airports play a major role in air transportation here.
With 43,980 takeoffs and landings last year, Johnson County Executive Airport ranked fourth busiest of towered airports in Kansas and fourth busiest in the Kansas City area. New Century ranked third in Kansas and the metro.
Earlier this year some Kansas officials, including Gov. Sam Brownback, floated an idea for a bigger airport to be built in Johnson County to rival KCI. Kansas City officials have not yet decided whether KCI should be revamped.
Otto said he couldn’t comment on any such plans because he’s bound by a nondisclosure agreement.