By B. Scott Mohr
While many people may not be familiar with Greenwood Municipal Airport, a study in 2012 valued the facility’s economic impact at $27.3 million. And that figure is growing as the airport reported a 3.7 percent increase in flights from 2013 to 2014.
Located along East County Line Road since the 1940s, the airport is managed by Lori Curless, who finds herself in a position typically held by a male. She was hired by the Greenwood Board of Aviation Commissioners in December, having previously served as a consultant, manager and administrator for various airports, including those in Anderson, Fort Wayne (a commercial service, joint use military airport) and Monroe County.
Curless ensures that the airport is in compliance with local, state and Federal Aviation Administration rules and regulations. “I also promote and market the airport not only to itinerant aircraft, businesses and aircraft looking to locate in the Greenwood area but also to the community and city leadership,” she said.
“I regulate tenant leases and assist with tenant negotiations and other contracts. I am also responsible for marketing and the implementation and monitoring of our fuel sales and other airport fees.”
Besides Curless, there are two other full-time employees and two part-time ones. The airfield is home to other businesses, including two flight schools, three aircraft maintenance facilities, aircraft sales and an airport engineer. Those companies employ about 35 people.
“We are poised to serve Johnson County, Indianapolis and the surrounding community as the closest airport to Downtown Indianapolis. We are capable of serving not only general aviation aircraft but also corporate and business jets. Greenwood Airport truly is a diamond in the rough, with so much potential serving as a destination airport for those traveling in the area,” said Curless, a third-generation pilot who has accrued nearly 300 hours of flight time.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace administration and an associate degree in general fight technology from Indiana State University and is an airport certified employee through the American Association of Airport Executives.
The airport – originally known as Wheatcraft – is not only a business but an infrastructure that serves central Indiana, and an updated terminal features a quiet room, showers and vending machines. Many high-profile customers and businesses use the airport and then rent cars and visit restaurants, hotels and other places.
Curless, who is single and enjoys flying and sports, said it’s hard to quantify what percentage of flights are business-related. But taking into account the airport’s two flight schools and the pilots who fly for pleasure, she estimates that about 25 percent of the flights are for business.
Because the airport is self-sustaining, it does not receive taxes to support its general operating fund, Curless said. Therefore, growing and maintaining the infrastructure, staffing the facility to ensure safety, customer service and grounds maintenance and constructing and maintaining hangars becomes quite a challenge. To meet budgetary demands, additional revenue will be sought through more hangar development and rental office space.
Even though the airport is enjoying an increase in the number of flights – 29,499 in 2013 compared to 30,602 last year – expansion would be difficult as the facility has become landlocked with recent commercial and residential development.
“However, we are taking measures to incorporate best land use practices,” Curless said. “Although pavement infrastructure may be limited, we are working to grow the facility.”
The airport has 62 open T-hangars, of which 65 percent are occupied. All 54 of the enclosed hangars are occupied, and there is a waiting list. The nine corporate/community hangars have room for one more small jet.
Most of the planes housed at the airport are single/multi-engine aircraft.
The largest planes to land at the airport are a Gulfstream IV, a Falcon 900 and a Citation X.
After operating a communications consulting business for the past four years and 17 years as a television news reporter-anchor, Rick Hightower has been named communications & marketing coordinator for Perry Township Schools.
Hightower replaces Paula Clegg, who held the position the past five years and served in the district for 17 years. Clegg left to assist in the her family business.
Hightower spent five years as a reporter at ABC affiliate WRTV6, and prior to that he was the corporate communications manager for ATA Airlines. Before moving to ATA, he spent 12 years with then CBS affiliate WISH-TV.
“I believe Perry Township is one of the premiere school districts in the state, and I’m excited to continue my career with such a dedicated team of educators,” said Hightower. Four of his children have graduated from Perry Schools, and two are enrolled in the district.
“We’re fortunate to have someone like Rick, who covers the good news about Perry Township through the eyes of not only a reporter but also a father,” said Dr. Thomas Little, superintendent of schools. “We look forward to keeping Rick extremely busy in helping us to promote not only the school district but the entire community.”
The district’s enrollment in its 18 schools is more than 15,000.