The New Orleans Lakefront Airport

THE NEWORLEANS LAKEFRONT AIRPORT The Airport is owned by the Orleans Levee Dis- trict, but is operated by the by Non-Flood Protec- tion Asset Management Authority. “Up until the early 2000s, the Levee District owned and oper- ated all the property,” explains Executive Director, Jesse D. Noel. “But, following Katrina, it was said that the Levee District, which is supposed to pro- vide flood protection for the citizens of Orleans Parish, was focusing too much on its ‘non-flood assets’– they owned the airport and a couple of marinas and a lot of recreational space – and so they divided the non-flood assets from the flood assets and created a separate entity to manage them. The Airport is kind of our crown jewel – it’s the largest enterprise that we operate for the Orleans Levee District.” Noel adds that the Airport is predominantly self-funded, but does receive some supplemental funding from the larger Authority. “The Orleans Levee District owns many more non-flood assets than just the Airport and so some of those oth- er assets will supplement some of the funding required at the Airport,” he explains. “But we are, with large scale deferred maintenance projects considered, about break even, right now.” In 2005, the Airport was damaged by hurri- cane-force winds and the storm surge of Hurri- cane Katrina, and a number of its hangars and outlying buildings were destroyed. However, over the past several years, its singular, art deco ter- minal building has been restored to its original grandeur, with floor to ceiling granite and a grand atrium entrance hall. In addition, thick concrete panels that were added to the building in the early 1960s, to turn it into a Cold War era bomb shelter, have been removed. As a GA airport with between 100-150 home- based aircraft at any one time, Noel believes that Lakefront is a unique facility. “Part of the uniqueness is the age and history of the Airport and part of what gives us a competitive edge in today’s aviation market is we’re 15 minutes from downtown New Orleans and the French Quarter,” he states. “We’re the only Airport that can say that. If you land at Lakefront Airport, you get on the interstate in five minutes, and you’re downtown in ten. So, we think that gives us a very strong advantage with the business community and we market on that, heavily.” Currently, Noel reports that all of the Airport’s active hangar space is filled. “We did have a three or four hangar reduction following Katrina – some facilities that were abandoned. The rest were all reconstructed or restored,” he says. “We’re getting ready to develop a list and looking at building some additional T-hangars to accommo- date some of the smaller GA aircraft, but all of our large hangar space is leased out to the two FBOs that we have on the airfield and it is full, by all accounts.We do have patches of ground where we could expand some hangar space; most of it has been left vacant after Katrina or it hadn’t been developed, initially.” When it comes to building new hangars, Noel adds that he favors offering ground leases to de- velopers and letting them build them, themselves, from the ground up. “We just got approved from the FAA to redo our Master Plan, and we’re en- deavoring to do that, right now. It’s to identify the optimal locations for T-hangars to increase our GA-based aircraft community, and also to build more large hangars and get our business commu- nity back here to what it was before Katrina.”