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Aviation is Flying High in SWLA

Posted by: George Swift on Tuesday, May 17, 2022

(Originally run in the May 17, 2022, edition of the American Press)

Our five parish region has many valuable assets in the aviation sector.  There are airports throughout the area. The Allen Parish Airport, Beauregard Airport with its industrial mega-site, Jennings  Airport, Southland Field in Carlyss , and Dequincy all have facilities to handle various private aircraft. 

One of the major facilities is Chennault International Airport, known as a hub for aerospace activity. Strategically located along the  Interstate 10 corridor in Lake Charles, Chennault is home to Northrop Grumman, Landlocked Aviation Services, Citadel Completions and a manufacturing company, Louisiana Millwork, which makes windows and doors.    The airport boasts the longest civilian runway in Louisiana at over 10,000 feet.

With the phasing out of the J-Stars program, there has been a slight personnel reduction at Northrop Grumman.  However,  Northrop Grumman  has been awarded a five year contract by the Navy integrated Modification and Maintenance Contract  for the U. S. Navy  E-6B Mercury  Platform, a derivative of the commercial  Boeing 707 aircraft.   

Chennault is also home to Million Air, an aviation and ground service facility which offers aviation fuel  and luxury amenities for private planes.  

Chennault is constructing the first phase of an air cargo facility which hopefully will grow that sector. With the acquisition of the old Mallard Cove Golf Course property, several hundred new acres are available for future industrial expansion.  For Chennault to reach maximum potential additional water and sewer capacity is needed.  

During the 2020 hurricanes, the facility sustained $130 million in damages and recovery is continuing.

Chennault and its tenant’s employ 1,000 people with annual payroll of $83 Million, creating  2,805 direct and indirect jobs. 

Though Chennault is a major power house for the state’s economy,because it does not serve passenger air service, its grant funding from the Federal Aviation Administration is substantially less than those airports which serve passengers.

As a result, local taxpayer support is necessary via a property tax, voted on in  10 year spans. This revenue is essential for the operation of Chennault and to keep their existing tenants, and seek new ones.

Lake Charles Regional Airport (LCH) began operation in 1961 and is a commercial air service public use airport that serves the air travel needs of over 200,000 Southwest Louisiana residents.  LCH offers non-stop service by two commercial carriers, American Airlines to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and United Airlines to Houston Intercontinental Airport.

The airport is situated on 2,000 acres with over 30 entities operating on the airport’s property.  LCH is home to Bristow US, a helicopter company (formerly ERA) to serve the offshore oil and gas industry. 

The facility’s needs include continued support for recovery since LCH has still only received a small portion of expected FEMA reimbursements.  Under the Infrastructure Bill  – Airport Terminal and Tower Project , LCH has an application for $2.5M to replace the passenger loading bridges at gates 2 and 3  (both are nearly twenty years old and have been damaged in multiple hurricanes including Laura.)

Heath Allen , Executive Director of LCH, says  “We’re continuing to experience challenges related to a shortage of staffing including pilots and mechanics at  regional airlines.  This has already resulted in reduced capacity and frequency at some medium sized airports.  At LCH, we are urging support for The Regional Airport Association’s legislative initiatives which hope to address flight training by opening up additional paths for flight training including access to student loans.”

When you fly Lake Charles Regional you are helping to maintain the current air service and helping to make the case for expanded service in the future.  Check out the website Fly and find out more.  With high gas prices it makes dollars and sense to fly out of Lake Charles, more than ever. 

Aviation is an important sector for Southwest Louisiana for air service, employment, and future job creation and deserves our support. 


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