Hannibal to get new airport terminal

Hannibal is preparing to break ground on a new airport terminal.

It will feature areas for visiting pilots, conference rooms and vending areas.

Right now the airport terminal is here in the side of a airplane maintenance hangar.

As you can see, it's very cramped quarters and a small office in the back serves as a classroom for aspiring pilots.

City officials say this terminal will not only be a great hub, but also will be like a new welcome mat for visitors.

George Walley said, "Most citizens don't know we have a lot of corporate jets flying in and out of Hannibal and have for a while.

What does this say to businesses?

Walley said, "That we take transportation seriously and we wanted to compliment the investment dollars across the river with the medical complex."

But perhaps more important is the expansion and development at the airport.

At a time when aviation is down 40 to 60 percent across the country, airport business in Hannibal has increased by more than 400 percent in the last two years.

Arnold Bates just landed here at Hannibal Regional Airport from a hunting trip in South Dakota.

He's one of many people flying into Hannibal Regional Airport these days.

"We landed here because of the cheap fuel."

That's right...Hannibal is known for that fact by pilots all over the country. Those prices are set for a reason so the city can lure more pilots to town for not only fuel, but also a good meal and perhaps even a hotel room.

More pilots landing in Hannibal means more money for American's Hometown, but perhaps the biggest reason for the big business boom at Hannibal Regional airport is because of new services like Skydiving and Soaring.

Mike Barron, Airport Manager says those services help Hannibal's banner business.

Barron said, "We're supporting the tourism with enhanced access with people flying in and we've created tourism with airplane rides and skydiving."

This summer alone, 500 people have taken the plunge through Rapid Decent Skydiving, and 300 gliders have taken to the air this year.

Another area of growth is in the airport's flight school. There are eight times more pilots in training these days. Ariel Henderson is getting her training here in Hannibal and hopes to become a commercial pilot

Henderson said, "It definitely can create a lot of opportunities."

The increase in flight students has brought new instructors like Robbie Moon.

Moon said, "Aviation has been down across the nation and it's neat to see a place where there's interest and enthusiasm about it."

That enthusiasm builds upon itself.

Sam Foreman, Head Flight Instructor said, ""if you establish a core group of people at the airport that will attract people from all over."

Barron said, "We've brought maintenance, a flight school , charter services and skydiving each supports the other."Students increase planes flying into the airport, more airplanes increase fuel sales, that's more pilots going into the community."

Barron anticipates business to double in the coming years with the construction of the new airport terminal here.

Barron Aviation is also known for its antique and restored aircrafts. In fact many of them are used in the day to day operations at the airport.

The new terminal should be completed sometime this spring.

The new terminal is only the next step in enhancing the Hannibal's airport. We've learned the airport is also up for runway extensions in the coming years. Extending the runway to 55 hundred feet would allow larger aircraft to land.

But while that would be great for business, it's part of a plan to better position Hannibal for emergency management purposes.

With a better runway, Hannibal could become a staging area for supplies and aid in case of a catastrophic event, like a major earthquake on the San Andreas Fault.

Marion County Emergency Management Director John Hark says if that would happen, chances are Highway 61 and bridges across the Mississippi would be out of service because of their proximity to the fault.

There is no word on when runway extensions will actually happen, though the city of Hannibal says it will be sometime after the completion of the new terminal.