Evansville Regional Airport
Fly EVV First
Business View Magazine interviews Nathaniel T. Hahn, Executive Director at Evansville Regional Airport, for our focus on General Aviation in the U.S.
Evansville Regional Airport (EVV) is a commercial and general aviation airport located on the southwest tip of the State of Indiana. When looking out of the airplane window, passengers flying in can’t help but notice the lovely rolling hills of the Indiana Midwest – and be duly impressed.
The original airport was built in 1928 on 260 acres. It had a small terminal, weather bureau, a hangar, boundary lights, and two runways. Fast forward to 1989: Evansville Regional Airport moved to its much larger current location on 1,250 acres and now sports three asphalt runways, the longest of which is 8,021 feet. EVV is sandwiched between the Ohio River to the south, Hoosier National Forest to the east, and the Shawnee forest to the west
Most of the traffic at the airport comes from Indiana, an estimated 60-65 percent, with the rest from Southern Illinois and Western Kentucky. The airport management estimates there are just under a million people in the catchment area. “We’re in the middle of a larger circle of cities like Indianapolis, Louisville, St. Louis, and Nashville,” says Nate Hahn, Executive Director of Evansville Regional Airport.
As Indiana is the crossroads of America, the airport is uniquely positioned, not just for manufacturing but logistics as well, with Interstate 64 running east and west through the city and the new Interstate 69 being completed, which will link Canada to Mexico. The airport is a vital business lifeline for the city of Evansville and the surrounding towns, with large companies located in these pockets, such as Jasper Engines, Kimball, AstraZeneca, Toyota, and Berry Global. Almost all of these companies will use the airport to reach a number of large metro hubs.
Hahn reports, “Our commercial flights include American Airlines to Dallas, Charlotte and Chicago. United Airlines flies to Chicago as well, and Delta Airlines flies to Atlanta and Detroit. And Allegiant Air flies twice a week to Orlando, and during the summer season, flights to Destin are included.” There have not been any new additions to the commercial flights recently, due to the pandemic reducing the demand for travel. However, in the 10 years previous to 2020, many of the listed commercial flights were added due to demand.
Even in light of the restrictions for COVID-19, the airport has actually seen impressive gains in traffic numbers compared to 2019. According to Hahn, “We got June’s numbers and we’re back at 76 percent of what we were achieving in 2019. Which is a massive improvement from the beginning of the year, which was around 40 percent. The airport is progressing in the right direction.” He adds, “We finished 2019 with our highest enplanement for the century, the last time the numbers were this high was around 2000. The airport was setting records, and it was nice to have people enjoy the newly modernized terminal before the pandemic broke out.”
Before the pandemic shut down air travel, the airport just finished an exciting $20 million renovation of its terminal. While this unfortunate clash of events would have spelt disaster for most, the management at the airport adjusted and adapted with the times. In fact, the upgrades to the terminal were very timely in regard to COVID precautionary steps. Namely, being one of the first airports in the U.S. to be awarded Airport Council International Global Health Accreditation – due to their pandemic protocols and a new air purification unit that removed COVID-19 particles from air circulation.
EVV being an airport that doesn’t rest on its laurels, the decision was made to reach out to the passengers and ask what they wanted. The one improvement people asked for was covered parking.
This was also a request from the rental car agents. If it was raining, passengers landing for business in Evansville couldn’t get to their vehicle without getting wet. Coincidentally, while researching solar energy solutions, airport management discovered that they could cover the parking area in solar panels. Hahn elaborates, “We spent a good amount of time getting the solar up and running, but we’ve been able to cover 400 spaces. It’s currently the largest array of its kind in the Midwest and the second largest in the U.S. – generating 1.3 megawatts of power.”
The winning contractors for the project, Johnson Melloh Solutions, came to the table with a plan, as it was more complex than just installing panels in a field. Panels needed guttering, underground wiring dug, and solutions found to hide exposed wires. There was also an upgrade in parking management systems that allows visitors to access the parking a lot easier and via a touchless system, again an addition that worked well for COVID-19 hygiene protocols. Hahn admits, “We did everything we could to make things easier for our passengers and protect them during COVID-19, and our efforts worked out well. In addition, the solar panels are reducing our carbon footprint and making the airport more competitive and sustainable moving forward.”
EVV is always looking at expanding its service offerings, especially with new prospective airlines inside the terminal. The airport has ample land surrounding it to expand into, with opportunities to build and develop. Most of the hangars are currently being leased by the FBO, and some are owned by private individuals. However, one special hangar is the Evansville Wartime Museum that houses a few amazing planes such as the P-47 Thunderbolt, which was made in the city 70 years ago during World War II.
A recent program for frequent travelers has also been introduced at the airport. The EVVip program that was originally operating using cardboard cards, has now been transferred to a credit card system that can be linked to clients’ bank accounts. It also integrates seamlessly with the newly upgraded parking system. In addition, the VIP program allows for travel expenses to be downloaded online. This upgrade is a great improvement on the old system, and the staff agrees wholeheartedly. As Hahn recounts, “When I was talking to a staff member, she informed me that every single part of the new system is better than every single part of the whole old one.”
The airport has a long term relationship with CHA Consulting, spanning ten years. And Hahn believes that they tick all the right boxes. He notes, “Three things are important to me in regard to partnerships: trust, communication, and quality. CHA Consulting does all three, and I trust that they have my best interests at heart and are willing to do the right thing and be consistent.” Another organization that ticks all the right boxes is the Evansville Regional Economic Partnership. “They are a powerhouse of an organization,” says Hahn. “A one-stop-shop for connecting businesses in the community with the right people. They are a perfect combination of taking all those things that you may need to grow your business and build relationships in the city. In turn, business growth and community engagement aids air service development.”
Moving into the future the airport wants to get the travel numbers back to pre-COVID levels, which had been increasing over the last decade. Airport management are also aiming to get a bigger share of the market. This means they will be rolling out a new marketing partnership program called, Fly EVV First. While they are interested in gaining more passengers from surrounding cities, it’s the community surrounding the airport that they want to improve: Growing businesses and improving the quality of livelihoods.
“We’d love to see additional flights from our current airline partners,” says Hahn. “Also, we plan to expand the parking lot. In the summer of 2019, there were no empty spaces and we had to park people along the curb.” In general, the airport’s goal in the next three to five years is growth, as well as assisting with developments for the community. “Our board’s vision statement is to have a beautiful, thriving, professional, high-end, safe, front door community, and make that experience happen whether it’s your first trip or 50th. We want to make people happy that they are doing business in Evansville,” concludes Hahn.
AT A GLANCE
Evansville Regional Airport
What: A busy commercial and general aviation airport
Where: Vanderburgh County, Indiana
CHA Consulting, Inc. – chacompanies.com
CHA is an innovative, full-service consulting firm working to responsibly improve the world we live in. For 60 years, CHA has delivered personalized airside, landside and facility-related planning, design and construction projects to improve our airports and enhance the traveler experience. See examples of our work at chacompanies.com.