Smith Field Future On Path For "Take Off": New Hangar Latest Improvement

By Scott Sarvay
By Jeff Neumeyer

March 29, 2012 Updated Mar 30, 2012 at 8:54 AM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) - While gas prices may be curtailing traffic on roadways, a Fort Wayne airfield is celebrating a boom in business.

What a difference a few years makes for Smith Field.

Folks who've been around the city for more than a decade probably remember how the small North side airport was on the endangered species list.

Thursday, officials snipped a ribbon, marking the opening of a new airport hangar that has space for 12 planes.

The good news, every one of the units has already been leased.

Another new multi-unit hangar is planned for construction in the next two to three years.

The local airport authority was ready to shut down the smaller, landlocked airfield in 2003, before pilots and other aviation supporters mounted a campaign to rescue the facility from the scrap heap.

Now, an aviation mechanic school is thriving on the property and a new runway is envisioned ten years down the road.

Short-term, there's a different focus.

Scott Hinderman/Airport Authority Director: " Right now, our immediate need is a little bit more aircraft storage facilities, or T-hangars, so we have to start working on that, and get that to where we've got our arms around it. And we're accommodating all of our users and stakeholders, and then we'll start working towards the other runway."

David DeWald/Pilot: " To fight to see it stay open, and then to see it go beyond your dreams, is pretty amazing."

Smith Field is an uncontrolled airport, so there is no system set up to track planes taking off and landing, but the airfield does keep track of fuel sales.

Hinderman says that business is making a comeback after some lean years during the recession.

This year, the airport authority says fuel sales are up five percent, one more indication that the future is looking brighter for a facility that once appeared doomed.

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