Purdue Airport Plans Expansion, But Not Regular Commercial Flights

May 20, 2014

A small plane lands at the Purdue Airport, which will continue mostly serving planes this size, even if planned expansions come to fruition.
Credit Stan Jastrzebski / WBAA News

Purdue Airport officials say despite a plan to expand the facility’s two runways, travelers shouldn’t expect regular commercial air service to West Lafayette any time soon.

Airport Director Betty Stansbury says the demand for flights isn’t likely to meet airlines’ needs, even if improvements are made. She says the runways are capable of handling those flights now, but the airport has a reputation for not being able to keep client airlines…

“Commercial airline service isn’t not coming here because of length or strength issues," Stansbury says. They’re not coming here because we’ve had 14 airlines try this market unsuccessfully.”

Still, the airport’s 20-year plan – which is contingent on competitive, discretionary federal funding – is ambitious. It sets aside space for another hangar, almost two dozen new buildings and even an area for research into unmanned drone technology, should the need arise. Stansbury says she’s hopeful leaders in Washington, D.C. will allocate money for at least the runway improvements because it’s been about four years since the airport requested any federal dollars for improvements.

“And we compete. Any time we want to do a project, we go out and compete against all the other projects in the region for discretionary funds," she says. "We hope that we’re going to be successful, but it’s not a guarantee.”

Stansbury says airlines have lately begun asking for monetary guarantees before they’ll commit to daily service from the airport. The last such proposal would have cost the airport $2 million up front before the airline would agree to fly two daily shuttles from Lafayette to Chicago.