The Hancock County Airport (FAA LID: KY8), also known as Ron Lewis Field, opened in 2007 and is located at 500 Airport Road in Lewisport. It is one of the most well-managed and maintained public use, small airports anywhere around, and is owned by the Hancock County Airport Board.
Many small airports aren’t managed as well as Hancock County’s little, local airport is. A very dedicated group of mostly volunteers run it, and always take extra measures to ensure its excellence.
The only paid employee, Katie Thomason, arrives every morning at 6:30 and inspects the fuel on Monday through Friday to make sure there is no debris, water, etc. as required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), before the first plane comes in to fuel up.
Gary Long and other airport board members alternate with fuel checks on weekends. Every day someone goes in to see that the fuel system is working properly and that there is good, safe fuel which is also a requirement of TITAN Aviation Fuels Company. They try their best to offer competitive fuel prices, as well.
There isn’t typically a lot of jet traffic, but in the last year, they had a Dassault Falcon 900, which is a 12-passenger, private jet with 3 engines. The jets that do come through are mostly for business with local industry, which is a real asset for Hancock County.
When prospectors visit an area looking to build, they arrive in an airplane, and HC Airport is handy for that. They don’t have to land in Owensboro anymore, because HC Airport now has a 5,000-foot clearance. With the newest expansion, 56 acres were purchased to extend the runway, five percent of which was paid for by the state and locally, and the other 90 percent with federal dollars.
The airport has a little over 200 acres total now, with 8-9 foot fencing and crop land on both ends. With fuel sales, hangar rentals and crop land income, it is almost self-sufficient. The county does, indirectly, furnish electric, telephone and gas heat to the facility.
Full-Service Upon Request
HC Airport offers self-serving fuel. Pilots can come in, use their credit card, get fuel and be on their way. Most of the airports today offer self-serve, even the larger ones. It’s usually cheaper than full-service. However, when jets call in ahead of time and request help with fueling-up, board members make sure there is someone to assist with full-service.
This year, compared to the last couple of years, general aviation is down in numbers a little bit, according to fuel sales. Nevertheless, the 2 large buildings that store 40 planes total at the airport are currently full.
There is a waiting list, and they hope to do the engineering this year and build another one soon, due to the demand for bigger hangars. Airport board member Timmy Powers said the new building will have 8-10 T-hangars, with a larger bay at the end for jets.
Some pilots fly in and spend the night at the airport, because of weather or for convenience in their schedule. There are comfortable couches to sleep on, a small kitchen and bathrooms. The comments attendants have received have always been favorable. Pilots say often that it’s a very nice facility and well-kept.
The airport is required to issue a notice to airmen, through the FAA. Pilots know to check the website and read this notice before they land, to check the condition of the airport. The airport board members report in the notice what the breaking effect is, such as if a fuel system is inoperative, if the runway is icy, etc. They have a chart that gives them guidance on how to determine if conditions are detrimental enough to temporarily close or not.
Powers said that software will be installed soon that the state is requiring all airports to have. “We got the grant for that,” he said. “They will come in and put new software on the computer system and hook it up to an antennae outside that keeps track and reports the data on our computer. The state is paying for it for the first year, and then there are rumors that they’ll pick it up from now on if it’s a successful program.”
The airport also has courtesy cars available, a Dodge Caravan and a Chevy Impala (surplus vehicles from the state). Airport board members are responsible for upkeep and maintenance on them, and say they have never had to refuel the courtesy cars, because people always fill them up before returning them, or leave the money for the gas they used.
There have been instances where people from Waupaca landed and their rental company had a mix-up, so they were able to use these courtesy cars. Waupaca are in and out a lot, but usually don’t buy fuel because they have their own fuel farm at their home airport.
There is a nice conference room available at the airport as well. Some companies come in and have their meetings right there in the conference room. There is a large screen TV, and connections for power point presentations, etc.
From Monday, July 31st through Monday, August 7th, contractors were doing seal coating work at the HC Airport. That project was entirely funded by the state. New paint striping was completed on the taxiways. Some re-striping was also completed on the runway where it had peeled-off in spots.
Last year the airport received an additional $200K for maintenance, from the state. “So far we haven’t done anything special with it,” Powers said, “except buy that little scissor lift (an aerial lift used for maintenance projects).” The remainder of the funds will be utilized when any improvements/repairs are needed.
“The KY Department of Transportation,” Powers added, “is pushing real hard and there have been a lot of meetings going on to approach the legislators this upcoming budget session to try to get more funds committed to aviation in KY in the next 2 years.”
Hancock County Airport’s Open House is right around the corner, on Saturday, September 23rd, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Free Young Eagles flights will be offered to children ages 8-17. There will be a bouncy house, food and drinks. Helicopter rides by KC Helicopters will also be available for a fee. To pre-register, please visit: YoungEaglesDay.org.
These free introductory flights are offered through the Young Eagles program and made possible through the generosity of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) member volunteers and sponsors like Phillips 66. For more information, please call the Hancock County Airport at 270-295-4100, or Gary Wilcox at 270-315-4601.
By Jennifer Wimmer