Local pilots know Beatrice Municipal Airport is the best in the state, but the Nebraska Department of Aeronautics just made it official.
On January 26, at the NDA’s yearly conference, Beatrice Airport was named best general aviation airport in Nebraska. Nominated by NDA director Ronnie Mitchell, the completion of the airport restoration played into the decision.
The airport recently finished reconstructing the 5600-foot-long, 100-foot-wide north-south runway and installing new LED runway lighting, airport manager Diana Smith said. That comes on top of the amenities already in the Beatrice Airport, Mitchell said at the presentation.
“When the award was given out,” Smith said, “he talked about the runway reconstruction project, he talked about us having fuel—we have self service fuel, we give good service to the customers. All of that enters into their decision in who they’re going to select.”
The main airport building boasts features like a flight planning room with a giant map of the United States covering one wall, a plush pilot’s lounge with comfy sofas and chairs and what the airport calls a “snooze room” where tired pilots can take a nap before heading back out.
The airport also handles military traffic and training and offers flight lessons, training new pilots in the skies over Beatrice and numerous hangars for the 38 planes that are based out of the airport.
“The airport itself is important, not only for training, but also the business jets,” Smith said. “Those business jets come in to do very important business to take care of within the city.”
With new businesses coming to scope out Beatrice’s prospects, having an airport that can accommodate more than just local traffic isn’t important, it’s a necessity.
“The airport is a vital part of our economic development,” said Tobias Tempelmeyer, Beatrice city administrator. “There are a number of businesses that come in and use our airport to bring in executives or clients. That’s huge for our community. I think it plays an important role as we move forward and look to encourage and recruit new businesses to our community.”
As industry in the city continues to grow, the airport is doing its best to keep up with demand. A proposal to reconstruct the second, crosswind runway was recently discussed at a City Council and will include the same fixes made to the main runway.
For many visitors, Smith said, the airport is the first impression they get, and, when it comes to the future of the city’s economic development, you don’t get second chance to make a first impression.
“They walk in and they associate the airport to the whole city of Beatrice,” Smith said. “So if you can make those people feel comfortable and welcome in our airport, then they feel that way toward the whole city.”
Smith said she often remembers the words of the previous airport manager, Don Fitzwater, who told her that the Beatrice Airport was the front door to Beatrice. Keeping the airport up to date and becoming a part of the city’s future is a priority.
“I guess I’m proud to be able to say that the customers have such a good feeling about the airport and we keep seeing returning customers,” she said. “That’s our whole objective, to be able to keep the customers coming back.”
This isn’t the first time Beatrice Municipal Airport has won the best airport award. Back in 1992, the airport received the first best airport in Nebraska award ever given out, and they’ve worked hard to win it again, 24 years later, Smith said.
“The Beatrice Airport is well known amongst aviators,” Tempelmeyer said. But the general public may not know what a gem we have out there. I think an award like this helps bring that information to a new audience.”