Terre Haute Regional Airport ranks first in the state among general aviation airports with an economic impact of more than $273.4 million, according to a 2022 Indiana State Aviation economic impact study.
Terre Haute’s airport supports 1,965 jobs with a labor income of $99.693 million, producing a gross domestic product of $168.128 million. That’s according to the Indiana Department of Transportation’s Office of Aviation.
“We are the No. 1 general aviation airport as far as economic output…” with the next closest airport about $17 million behind Terre Haute, Airport Director Jeff Hauser said Wednesday.
Second highest was Grissom Air Force Base in Peru with an economic output of $256.601 million.
The state aviation study was released in September. On Wednesday, Terre Haute airport officials released their own specific pamphlet as part of “State of the Airport 2023.”
Gary/Chicago International ranked third in general aviation airports with an economic output of $152.734 million, while Purdue University airport in Lafayette ranked fourth with an economic output of $63.69 million.
The study used 2019 as its base year, as the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 “would not have yielded a true reflection of these facilities’ economic contribution to the state’s economy,” according to INDOT.
The 69 aviation facilities that comprise Indiana’s aviation system includes four commercial services airports — Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, South Bend and Evansville — and 64 general aviation airports, which includes Terre Haute. The system also includes one heliport.
The study excluded Sheridan Airport and Boone County Airport, which were unresponsive with information for the study, according to INDOT. Both of those airports are unclassified facilities within the 2022 Indiana State Aviation System Plan.
The airport with the highest economic output is Indianapolis, with more than $7.5 billion, followed by Fort Wayne International at more than $557.9 million and South Bend International at more than $539 million.
Terre Haute topped Evansville, which had an economic impact of more than $207.7 million.
Terre Haute’s airport activity includes recreational flying, corporate and business flights and flight school training. It also includes police or law enforcement use, such as prisoner transport flights for the U.S. Federal Penitentiary.
While Terre Haute does not have commercial air passenger service, “We are the third busiest airport in Indiana,” Hauser said, pointing to the Indiana State University’s Flight Academy as a large contributor to the airport’s takeoff and landing numbers.
Last year, the airport had more than 68,000 flight operations (landings/takeoffs), up from 66,0000 in 2020, with the airport “growing about 10% a year,” Hauser said.
By the numbers, Terre Haute Regional Airport has 1,465 acres of property; 1 million square feet of ramp area with it’s primary runway measuring 9,020 feet long and 150 feet wide; and 500 full-time employees at the airport.
The ISU Flight Academy had 9,000 training flight hours in 2022 and the airport had 68,412 flight operations in 2022, ranking third in the state
Monica Newhouse-Rodriguez, managing principal of Newhouse and Associates, which serves as the airport’s consulting firm, said the study shows “what a thriving airport it is and that the business community actively uses this airport.
“There are cities all over the country that would kill to have an airport like Terre Haute,” Newhouse-Rodriguez said. “There are cities that have airports the same size as Terre Haute that are not nearly as successful,” she said.
“There are also a lot of businesses coming in and out of here. There is a lot of money being generated because people can fly directly here (and) have the meetings they need that are local,” she said. “Overall it is a huge advantage for all the industries located around Terre Haute,” she said.
Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett said the airport makes several economic contributions, including a military component with the Indiana Air National Guard’s 181st Intelligence Wing based here.
The city is working to attract more military assets to the airport, the mayor said, as well as aviation-related private businesses.
Another component includes a tourism approach, as the airport last year hosted a hot air balloon event, has a restaurant open to the public and will host an airshow in 2024 that will feature the U.S. Navy Blue Angels.
An east-side boom
“The east side has been primed for growth for some time. The airport will continue to grow and you will see much more retail and other kinds of businesses coming out on Indiana 46,” Bennett said, mentioning the new Queen of Terre Haute Casino Resort as one large example.
“We will build a new fire house out on this side (of town) as the city” and its partners are looking at an athletic facility/water that likely would be located on the east side due to the need for about 100 acres, the mayor said.
“So, this is where the growth area is going to be and you will continue to see more and more investment, which bodes well for all of us,” the mayor said.
On the firehouse, the mayor said the city is in a preliminary design of the new firehouse and “are working to acquire a piece of property.
That acquisition should happen in the coming months. Once that is set, we can finalize the design and hopefully start construction next year,” Bennett said.
“It will be a new fire house to serve the east side of Terre Haute and this corridor out here because of the growth that has already happened (with Walmart and Meijer) and growth that is to come,” the mayor said.
“We have a three minute response time from every fire house. The call volume has picked up so dramatically out here that sometimes that is difficult if a ladder truck or an ambulance has to go somewhere else, we have no coverage out here. So we will work through that and make sure we strategically place all of our equipment to maintain that response time.”
New airport fire truck
In a related issue, the airport unveiled its first new aircraft rescue and firefighting truck. The $699,738 vehicle, from Oskosh Airport Product LLC, and paid from federal funds.
The green-colored truck, built in 2022, holds 1,500 gallons of water, 200 gallons of foam and 50 gallons of powder. “This truck will do the work of two fire trucks. It will go anywhere,” said Jeff Fisher, the airport’s fire chief.
“In training, we drove over hills, went through ditches. This thing will top out at 80 mph and will go zero to 50 mph in 20 seconds and stop within 15 feet from 50 mph,” Fisher said.
“I am very pleased and excited about this truck.”