South Lafourche facility named 2006 Airport of the Year

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The South Lafourche Airport in Galliano has come a long way since it was constructed in the early 1970s by Lafourche Parish with an eye toward taking advantage of the growing role small aircraft transport would be playing in Louisiana’s economy.

Purchased by the Greater Lafourche Port Commission in 2002, the South Lafourche Leonard Miller, Jr. Airport was named 2006 Louisiana Outstanding Airport of the Year by the Federal Aviation Administration on March 8 in a ceremony held in Fort Worth at the FAA’s Southwest Region Partnership Conference.

The airport is grouped with the FAA’s Southwest Division comprising Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico.

Even though South Lafourche Airport is a general aviation (smaller aircraft) facility,

it competed against all Louisiana airports for the honor, including the larger commercial ones in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Lake Charles, Shreveport, Monroe, and Alexandria.

According to Airports Quarterly, the honor “recognizes the outstanding contribution airports make to enhance aviation in their state” and their “contribut[ion] to assuring the future growth, safety, and efficiency of the National Air Transportation System.”

Chett Chiasson, South Lafourche Airport’s economic development and grants administrator, said that his facility received the award “for being aggressive, and for outstanding commitment.”

But he feels the main reason his facility was given the honor is that the Greater Lafourche Port Commission “since 2002, has put over $5 million of our own money into the airport to get it where it needs to be.”

“The percentage of money the Port Commission put into improving the airport is unprecedented for a general aviation airport,” Chiasson said.

The facility’s single runway was 3,800 feet long when built in the 1970s, with a capacity to support 10,000 pounds. The Port Commission recently lengthened the runway to 6,500 feet.

“The extension of the runway from 5,000 feet to 6,500 feet was funded entirely by the Port Commission at a cost of $3 million,” said Chiasson, who has been the port’s economic development administrator for one-and-a-half years.

“The runway extension needs an overlay,” which will be finished shortly after the middle of May to allow it to support up to 75,000 pounds, he said.

The runway will have “a full parallel taxiway to accommodate large jet aircraft,” according to the Port Commission’s 2006 Media Guide.

The commission’s main focus had been to operate Port Fourchon, the harbor at the mouth of Bayou Lafourche on the Gulf of Mexico.

“Recognizing,” however, “the potential major importance of the South Lafourche Airport in providing air transportation services to support the continued development of Port Fourchon,” the commission acquired the airport, which is located 30 miles from the port, according to the media guide.

In addition to extending and strengthening the runway after taking over the airport, the Port Commission made “improvements (which) included installation of security measures, fueling capabilities, construction of an aircraft storage hangar, and installation of an Automated Weather Observation System,” according to a commission news release.

“There was no full-time presence at the airport,” said Port Director Ted Falgout. “It was barely utilized. Not even fuel had been available at the airport when we acquired it.”

“We felt we could take this airport-same overhead, same people, same administration-and fast forward it into developing it to grow with our seaport,” Falgout said.

Also, the Port Commission purchased 1,200 acres of land around the airport to use for

“industrial development,” the media guide states.

The surrounding land “was a working farm at the time” the commission bought the acreage, Falgout said.

“It has its own hurricane-protection levee inside,” he said, “for companies that might need the protection of levees and still be close to Port Fourchon.”

Falgout agreed with Chiasson about the importance of the commission using its own funds to develop the South Lafourche Airport.

“It is because of this commission’s willingness to commit local funding at a greater percentage than required, that we can account for the rapid expansion we are experiencing,” he stated in the news release.

Photo courtesy of the Greater Lafourche Port Commission * South Lafourche Airport Manager Jason Duet, Economic Development and Grants Administrator Chett Chiasson and Greater Lafourche Port Executive Director Ted Falgout are pictured with the Louisiana Airport of the Year award given at the recent Federal Aviation Administration conference. The award recognizes the outstanding contribution to the enhancement of aviation in Louisiana, and was awarded to the South Lafourche facility.