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Daily Journal
     October 14, 2020      #66-288 KDJ
 
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Improvement are being sought at the Greater Kankakee Airport. Upgrading the runway is in the sights of the Kankakee Valley Airport Authority Board.

Daily Journal/Tiffany Blanchette

Kankakee airport eyes rise with major

By Mike Frey
editors@daily-journal.com


KANKAKEE — It could be said the Greater Kankakee Airport is one of the region’s best kept secrets.

But if the vision laid out by commissioners of the Kankakee Valley Airport Authority Board at Monday’s meeting is realized, the stature of the already valuable facility is sure to rise exponentially.

The board is in the process of creating a committee for airport improvements. Still in its infant stages, the plan at this point is specifically aimed toward upgrading the runway so it can handle larger aircraft on a frequent basis.

The main runway already rivals Chicago’s Midway Airport for length, but the local landing location lacks the necessary depth, width and overall strength to handle larger aircraft which land regularly.

The first step toward making the intended improvements is to secure confirmation from a major carrier indicating its intention to use the Kankakee runway. KVAA Board Chairman Rende Langlois said the carrier being sought is not one such as United or Southwest Airlines, as larger commercial service is not part of the plan.

“We need a letter from a carrier,’’ Langlois said. While no such carrier has yet been identified, Langlois cited hypothetical examples such as the Illinois Department of Transportation, or a major mover of merchandise such as FedEx, UPS or Amazon.

These firms typically use larger planes such as 737 models to move product, and the Kankakee airport currently can’t handle these aircraft until the surface of the runway is fortified and made wider.

“The taxiways are not wide enough,’’ Langlois said, “because a 737 doesn’t have the turning range it needs.’’

The activity at the Kankakee airport can already serve as a selling point to attract such a carrier. Airport manager Jeff Benoit said he regularly looks out the window of the facility and sees aircraft associated with CSL Behring, Meier, Aldi and other major local retailers and places of business land.

Once such a letter is in hand, the KVAA can go about the task of securing federal and other types of funding to complete this major infrastructure advancement. Langlois is stressing patience, as the process will not be completed overnight.

“It will be a years-long process,’’ he said. It’s also something Langlois, a veteran board member, wants to help guide until its finished. He believes its emergence could attract “big box’’ distribution centers in the adjoining areas of the 700-acre facility. Such centers are common along different parts of I-57 and also nearby Interstate 80.

“My goal is to improve the airport,’’ he said.

Greater Kankakee Airport facts

• Located on the southern edge of Kankakee near Interstate 57, the airport opened in 1962

• Main runway expanded in 1966

• Commercial and freight service made available in 1967 when Air Wisconsin, Inc. began operating there.

• Terminal built in 1968. It remains standing today

• Army National Guard breaks ground for an Army Aviation Support Facility in 2013. Facility completed in 2017

• Presently, the airport more than 100 private tenants and businesses utilize the field 

Source: greaterkankakeeairport.com

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National Guard helicopters leave the runway at the Greater Kankakee Airport. The main runway already rivals Chicago’s Midway Airport for length, but the local landing location lacks the necessary depth, width and overall strength to handle larger aircraft which land regularly.

Daily Journal/Tif
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Mike Frey
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