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Photos by Laura J. Gardner | The Journal Gazette
Smith Field marks its new 12-unit T-hangar at the north-side airport. The building is the first built in more than 30 years.

Airport answers growth pains

Smith Field opens new 12-unit hangar amid lofty demand

Chamber President Mike Landram gears up for a short flight Thursday as the airport opened its new T-hangar.

– Local pilots celebrated the opening of a new hangar at Smith Field on Thursday.

Filled to capacity before it was even built, officials are already anticipating the need for another hangar in the next few years, and they have left plenty of room to add on to the new facility, said Scott Hinderman, executive director of Fort Wayne-Allen County Airport Authority, which operates Smith Field at Ludwig Road on Fort Wayne’s north side.

Called a T-hangar, the building is made up of 12 individual, private storage units for planes. The units include exterior translucent panels that allow natural light inside the units during daylight hours, resulting in reduced energy costs, Hinderman said.

The storage building – the first built in more than 30 years – will fulfill the growing demand for hangar space, as a number of pilots have been on a waiting list for years to store their aircraft at the airport, Hinderman said.

Local pilot and flying instructor David DeWald was thrilled.

“This takes us to a whole new level,” DeWald said. “Before, if a pilot was interested in investing a half-million dollars in a plane, he certainly did not want to store it in a 60- or 70-year-old hangar.

“With this (new facility) we can attract a whole new group – not just those learning to fly, but those who fly routinely for business,” DeWald said.

Steve Barber is one of the new tenants of the T-hangar. Co-owner of Powerclean Industrial Services, Barber often uses his plane for business purposes.

The environmental services and industrial cleaning company regularly flies members of management and its sales force to meetings within a 500-mile radius, Barber said.

While it costs money for fuel and equipment, Barber thinks those costs are offset by the dollars his company saves in lost travel time and wages.

With the layovers and erratic schedules of a commercial flight, it might take an employee three days to attend an-out-of-state meeting, Barber said.

On the other hand, he or another pilot – the company has two – can fly staff members to a meeting in their private plane and have them back home that evening, Barber said.

“There’s a lot of lost employee time and money” with commercial flights that we do not have, Barber said.

The company has 84 employees and averages one business flight a week, Barber said.

The airport had been at capacity with 56 aircraft based in its nine hangar units of various sizes and configurations.

The new T-hangar building is west of the existing Ivy Tech Aviation Maintenance Technology School off Ludwig Road. A new aircraft parking ramp has been constructed to support the hangars.

Rental of a T-hangar ranges from $78 to $200 a month, Hinderman said. In comparison, some metropolitan areas charge $500 a month for storage, he said.

Construction expenses included about $475,140 for the T-hangar building and $267,880 for paving a new aircraft parking ramp adjacent to the building.