After over eight years of planning, developing, and construction, the new Rooks County Regional Airport officially opened on April 5, 2012. It is the first new airport built in Kansas since 1989. The new airport replaces two low-use grass airstrips in the cities of Plainville and Stockton with a paved runway on newly acquired property in between.
The $6 million project was a cooperative effort between Rooks County and the two cities to stimulate future growth and development in the area, explains county economic development director Roger Hrabe. "We wanted to be at the forefront, not sitting back wishing we had done something," Hrabe explains.
The new airport was financed with Airport Improvement Program dollars and local matching funds. A county-appointed airport commission oversees its management and operations.
Officials expect the airport's 5,000-foot paved runway to eventually make the area more attractive to new business opportunities, but they also have more immediate returns in mind. "In the short term, we're thinking about our existing businesses and meeting their needs," says Hrabe.
According to Hrabe, momentum for expanding aviation in the region began in 2004. That's when the county contracted H.W. Lochner to update the Airport Layout Plan and Airport Master Plan for existing airports in Plainville and Stockton, and to complete a site selection study for the new Rooks County Regional Airport.
The site was eventually selected that would support the entire county and be easily accessible for the hospital. "Rooks County has never had the capability of supporting fixed-wing Life Watch flights" Hrabe said. "Now we will have that ability."
The Rooks County Airport Commission is now working on a fuel facility that is due to be installed this summer. The commission received a KDOT grant to cover 80% of the cost. Several hangars are already in the beginning stages, and more are planned for later.