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Kentland Indiana Airport Threatened by Wind Turbine Development

Kentland Airport
View of Kentland Airport looking southwest

Many small airports around the United States are under threat from land development, the economic slowdown, and the desire to increase tax revenues. The airport at Kentland, Indiana, population 1,700,is threatened by all of those. The Lafayette Journal and Courier reports that an effort is underway to close the airport to make room for wind turbine development, “but [the] town says no way.”

It’s fortunate the town leaders take this view, because Kentland is a favorite stopover for general aviation and light planes in the northern Indiana area. It’s a jewel of an airport for such a small town. It has a terrific runway, excellent hangars (with about 20 aircraft), a modern credit-card fuel pump system, and one more thing beloved by all the local pilots – an excellent truck-stop restaurant within easy walking distance that opens at 5 a.m. The inside story about this news report is little more complex.

The photo shows a pilot’s view of the wind turbine farm to the southwest of the airport. A check of the Chicago sectional will show an even larger complex to the southeast, and more are on the way. In past years, the airport has fought hard to protect its airspace and effectively blocked the building of even closer wind turbines, contendingthat they presented a physical and electronic hazard to the instrument landing system approach. More recently the airport blocked or halted construction of other tall agricultural structures close to it.

A few nearby landowners, dissatisfied they can’t have the opportunity to earn $8,000 or more a year per wind turbine, proposed closing the airport on the grounds that 100 additional turbines could earn the county $1 million in tax revenue. Kentland currently spends about $15,000 a year to support the airport. Airport Manager Chuck Classen said that many small-town airports aren’t a source of profit; they’re community assets like public parks. “You don’t expect a public park to make a profit,” said Classen. Fortunately since 2001 the airport has received more than $1 million from the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program. Much of it would have to be paid back if the airport closes. Kentland Mayor Dave Smart said he expects the airport to stay as it is and that there are no plans for an official meeting about the issue. In the meantime, visiting pilots are encouraged to enjoy the facilities and join local area pilots for breakfast flights.

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