The first phase of a $7 million jet center expansion project took flight last week with a groundbreaking ceremony at the Byron Airport.
Supervisor Mary Piepho, a longtime proponent of the airport extension, welcomed county and local officials to the event, praising the cooperative efforts of many in making the expansion a reality.
We're at the end of the cul-de-sac of East County and we have a lot to offer, said Piepho. The Byron Airport is a diamond in the rough, and it's been a real partnership to make this all happen. Congratulations to everyone.
Phase One, at an estimated $5 million price tag, will include four 100x100-foot aircraft hangers with office space attached, and two 80x80-foot hangers, also with compatible office availability. This first phase has been paid for by private developers, who will lease the land and retain responsibility for upkeep and maintenance. Construction is planned to begin in the next few months and be completed later this year.
Phase Two includes the construction of four 100x100-foot hangers and is expected to cost approximately $2 million. Construction will begin shortly after the completion of Phase One.
Despite a downturn in the economy and skyrocketing fuel prices, the new construction is the first upgrade for county-owned Byron Airport in nearly 10 years, said Keith Freitas, director of airports for the Byron Airport. And this time around, added Freitas, the emphasis is on the corporate customer.
It's been amazing. Since 9/11, aviation has continued to be strong, and actually sparked an aviation boom, said Freitas. The growth of Oakland and San Jose (airports) has also pushed a lot of corporate business to us, and we are uniquely situated to deal with that growth.
In spite of the price of aviation fuel hovering around $4.50 per gallon ($5 per gallon for large jets), Freitas says pilots deal with the increasing gas prices in much the same way as car drivers. Gas prices affect recreational pilots from the same standpoint as everyone else, he said. And the same is true for the majority of aircraft that are flying for business purposes. No one likes it, but you do what you have to do.
But in terms of the airport project, it's encouraging, especially in these tough economic times, to see aviation growing. What this means for Byron is that we are fulfilling the master plan that was completed in 2005 and which forecast this kind of corporate growth. It's very exciting.