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Thursday, September 29th, 2011

Lakefield Airport under new management

By Shelley Grieshop
MONTEZUMA - A Rockford man was chosen this week to manage Mercer County's only airport.
Charles "Chuck" Black, a licensed airplane pilot and flight instructor, was hired Monday as the new fixed-based operator (FBO) at Lakefield Airport in Montezuma. Black also plans to continue his work as a pilot for Miller Aviation of Portland, Ind., the airport's current FBO.
Miller Aviation was contracted to operate the county-owned airport in March 2010 but two weeks ago submitted a letter of resignation, effective Oct. 7. Former owner, 50-year-old Dave Miller, was killed in a plane crash in Kentucky on March 30; his wife reportedly decided to cease the contract with the airport's authority board.
The airport board on Monday reviewed five applications before tapping Black as the best candidate, board president Steve Klosterman said.
"He's got eight years experience," he said. "I believe it will be a very smooth transition."
Black's contract includes an annual salary of $21,000.
Although the airport won't be manned 24/7, Black said he will be available by phone around the clock.
Black has been a pilot since the early 1980s and has logged more than 8,000 hours in the air. His goal is to maintain a "multitude of services" at the airport, he said.
"I obviously want to continue to make the airport grow," he added.
Miller Aviation's charter service will remain operational at the airport under Black's supervision. He'd like to expand the service to supply pilots for private companies, he said. He believes there's a growing market for short-term and/or same-day business trips.
"A lot of corporate (executives) want to do a little business out of the area and be home at night with their families," he said.
A private charter flight allows busy executives to bypass long lines and security screenings at big airports, added Black.
Many of the charter flights out of Lakefield Airport involve the transportation of airplane parts for disabled aircraft and the delivery of organs and tissue to medical transplant teams across the country, he said.
Black plans to continue current services such as flight instruction and an on-site mechanic.
He's excited about the many ongoing upgrades and expansion projects at the airfield located along state Route 219, including the future construction of a $1.7 million taxiway. It's good news for the local economy, he said.
"There's so much potential for business with an airport. You'll never get any new companies in your area without one," he said.
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