DeKalb County Airport, Sweet Aviation Celebrate Opening of Extended Runway
Sweet Aviation, as the official fixed-base operator at the DeKalb County Airport (KGWB), celebrated the reopening of the airport’s runway with a special ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, September 29. The runway has been closed since July to allow contractors time to extend the runway to 7,105 feet and install new features.
DeKalb County Airport Manager Russ Couchman, BF&S Civil Engineers Executive Vice President Paul Shaffer, and Airport Authority Board President Jess Myers all offered remarks to kick off the ceremony. Multiple local, state, and federal elected officials were also in attendance. After the ribbon cutting and photo opportunity, a corporate jet demonstrated landing on the new runway.
The runway extension adds 2,105 feet to the previously 5,000-foot runway. The new 7,105-foot runway now also features new runway lights, new paint, new runway signs, and new PAPI (precision approach path indicator) lights.
“We know that we have a safer, more capable airport today than we did yesterday,” said Russ Couchman. “Whenever we can put more runway in front of an aircraft, we give the crew more time to think and react, and this will always lead to better outcomes. At 7,105 feet, the DeKalb County Airport is now in an elite class of regional corporate class airports.”
DeKalb County Airport acts as a vital economic gateway to and from Northeast Indiana, generating an estimated $16 million annual contribution to the state economy. A longer runway promises to allow businesses to fly more freight directly into Auburn.
Scotty Hepler, Sweet Aviation’s Fixed-Base Operator Manager at DeKalb County Airport, said “Some jets aren’t able to take off on a 5,000-foot runway with a full capacity of fuel and passengers. That extra 2,105 feet allows us to bring in bigger and heavier jets that are full.”
“We look forward to supporting both our general aviation and business class customers as we become an even greater economic engine in the region,” said Couchman. “Thank you to all of our customers for hanging in there with us through this construction process.”
Efforts to expand the runway formally began as far back as 2009 when DeKalb County Airport began purchasing the necessary land. The project also required relocating high-tension power lines, purchasing wetland mitigation in-lieu of fee credits, extending CR 62, closing CR 29, and building extension grading and drainage systems.
Phase 1 required 145,000 cubic yards of earthwork grading across 85 acres in preparation for paving. During this initial phase, 4,970 linear feet of new sewer system pipe was installed. Then, in phase 2, crews completed an additional 100,000 cubic yards of earthwork and 2,400 linear feet of storm sewer.
From planning and design to construction and inspection, the project cost totaled $23,812,000.
To reach full airport capability, more work will be required in the coming years. DeKalb County Airport will complete construction of a glideslope antenna and medium-intensity approach lighting system (MALSR) on Runway 27 in 2024. Then, in 2025, engineers will complete the extension of the parallel taxiway “A” to match the full runway length.