K-FH Regional Airport reps hold public meeting in Cove
By BRITTANY FHOLER
Copperas Cove residents gave their input, asked questions and learned about the Master Plan for the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport at one of three public meetings in the area, held Thursday at the Technology Center on S. 2nd St.
The meeting began with residents looking at display boards showing possible design plans for the inside of the airport and development plans for the land near the airport. Cherie Matthew, with Dallas-based architectural firm Corgan, was available to walk residents through the two alternative plans for the first floor and the five alternative plans for the second floor of the airport, touching on changes to the baggage claim area, security lines and concessions areas.
Some of the changes to the concessions areas and security lines would make the airport more friendly to passenger as opposed to the family members seeing them off, like the alternative that closed off access to concessions for non-passengers. Another option adds a bigger concessions for families to wait at and smaller concessions for passengers once they’ve passed the security checkpoint.
Matthew Van Valkerburgh, Director of Aviation for the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport and Skylark Field, answered questions about the display boards that showed plans for development of aviation areas and the possibility of non-aviation development options.
After 30 minutes or so of one on one discussion, residents sat down and Van Valkenburgh explained the specifics behind why and what the Master Plan, which is the first one the airport has had since opening 14 years ago, is for.
The Master Plan will answer questions about what will happen to the terminals, the surrounding land, the facilities, runways and taxiways, Van Valkenburgh said.
Although the Army owns Fort Hood, and therefore the land the airport is on, several operations are flown from the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport, which means that the airport has a fiscal responsibility to maintain the land and everything involved, he added.
“The Master Plan is the blueprint that’s going to carry us into the future,” Van Valkenburgh said. The future is 20 years ahead, separated into three sections: a short-term look at the next five years; a medium look six to 10 years from now; and the long range look at what is in store 11-20 years from now.
There are two committees- the Executive Committee and the Advisory Committee- that helped come up with creating the Master Plan. The Master Plan process includes holding public meetings, like the ones held in Killeen, Harker Heights and Copperas Cove Wednesday and Thursday.
The process started with meeting with the advisory committees and taking inventory of the airport, including the airspace, air traffic, land and access, as well as collecting socioeconomic data of the community and those who use the airport, Van Valkenburgh said.
Data, such as trends from the Top 20 Destinations from 2010-2016 for fliers out of Killeen, which showed a change in military centric destinations to more leisure traffic, was then used to forecast and develop facility requirements, Van Valkenburgh said.
After the public meetings, the committees will develop recommendations to move forward with and then eventually develop a Capital Improvement Plan, which will include the financial components involved such as when the plan will be put in place and the cost associated with that. The source of the money that the airport uses comes from Federal Aviation Association (FAA) grants and restricted revenue programs in the form of passenger facility charges or fees on tickets for the use of the airport. The Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport does not use general fund money, bond money or tax dollars, Van Valkenburgh said.
Van Valkenburgh fielded questions from audience members, including Copperas Cove Mayor Frank Seffrood, who asked whether the possible multi-modal transportation facility, intended for truck/rail cargo, would affect ridership on passenger aircraft. The answer was yes, because that facility stimulates additional business or potential business in the area, Van Valkenburgh said.
City council member Dan Yancy asked whether the Master Plan included the possibility of a second runway. That would be further addressed in the airport layout plan, but currently it does exist on the plan, along with plans to widen the taxiway and add shoulders through it, Van Valkenburgh said.
Van Valkenburgh also touched on the land development, which was featured in a few of the display boards- with three aviation development area alternatives and one non-aviation development area alternative. The land highlighted on the board currently belongs to Fort Hood, and thus the U.S. Army. In order to expand, the airport would have to buy or swap land with Fort Hood.
“We don’t own it, we want to own it, we’re working towards getting that to happen,” Van Valkenburgh said. “We are a tenant of Fort Hood.”
Fort Hood joins Fort Leonard Wood, in Missouri, as the only two airports in the U.S. that are joint use with the Army, where the Army owns the airfield or airport, Van Valkenburgh said.
Van Valkenburgh also brought up a common question regarding expanding, after Delta Airlines decided to leave.
“Remember, that’s not what we’re doing,” Van Valkenburgh said. “We’re looking towards the future. Any growth, any development we do is going to be based upon certain triggers.”
Van Valkenburgh said that the Master Plan doesn’t mean that it’s concrete but that it offers possibilities.
City council member Marc Payne asked about ways the airport is working to get more people to fly in and out of Killeen.
The leakage rate, where someone who could use the airport but decides to fly from somewhere else, for Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport is 65 percent, which is about average for regional airports, Van Valkenburgh said.
The airport has done studies and results show some of it is airfare and some of it is otherf. The perception that Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is cheaper is not necessarily true. Every Tuesday, the airport publishes a spreadsheet comparing airline ticket fare between Killeen, Austin, Dallas and Waco on their Facebook page, showing that flying via Killeen is cheaper in some instances and within $50 on other fares.
Copperas Cove Independent School District school board president and local business owner, Joan Manning, explained that she thought some people were still thinking of the times when there were only crops flying out of Killeen, adding that what they’re picturing is not reality.
“Until they actually take those hops to Dallas, Fort Worth or wherever they’re going, I think people have a real bad misconception of that airport,” Manning said.
The Master Plan documents can be found online and residents who weren’t able to make the meeting can also leave comments online through the website at http://killeenfthood.airportstudy.com.