Evansville Regional Airport
a local airport taking the steps to meet increased aviation demand
Aviation operational upgrades are helping to fuel increased air traffic into Evansville Regional Airport
Evansville Indiana, on the banks of the Ohio River, is such a beautiful and bountiful area that there is evidence of people living there for over 10,000 years. Tucked into Southwest Indiana, this area is known as the Tri-State area bordering Kentucky and Illinois and is served by the Evansville Regional Airport (EVV).
Serving as a gateway into such a beautiful area is the dynamic Evansville Regional Airport. “Prior to the pandemic we had a record year in 2019 at 250,000 enplanements,” says Nate Hahn, Executive Director of Evansville Regional Airport. “Now, that changed with the pandemic, but this year we will probably see 160,000 enplanements. That really means that we are the front door to the community and their regional hub. Because we have great air service.”
Hahn explains that “Delta flies to Atlanta and American is offering service to Charlotte and Dallas and Allegiant offers less than daily flights to Orlando and Destin, Florida– we perhaps did a little better than some airports.”
“We are actively working on recovery. One of the ways we have done that is through the Fly EVV First campaign where we have invited local businesses to declare a preference to use the airport. We have about 20 regional businesses that have signed on saying that they’re going to fly EVV. We feel this was the perfect time to launch this campaign because that’s how we ensure that we grow air service in our community and that we’re not losing it to the hubs around us.”
Hahn has an interest in the airline industry. He sees it as a unique position compared to literally every other industry because as airport director, he is selling something that he has no control over. As he explained; people fly out on aircraft owned by other entities, and he also is a buyer of something he has no control over and they provide services while not knowing if people will use them.
When applied locally, the issue is that there are over a million people in the catchment area – but how do you convince them to use the airport? What other factors are at play when it comes to ticket sales and destinations? “It is the people who choose,” he concludes. “If they buy the tickets then more flights will be made available. I try to get that across as much as possible – it is the users, ultimately, who are in control of the industry and if you choose to fly out of EVV then EVV will grow. If you choose to go to a larger hub, then we will not.”
“It’s an excellent program.” Hahn continues. “It puts the power into the hands of the users, and it is all about us empowering them and helping them understand that we will do everything we can from an airport perspective to keep the service we have and to gain additional service, larger aircraft, more frequent flights. We will build for this, but it ultimately comes down to passengers. Fly EVV First keeps this idea front and center.”
Evansville Regional recently won an award for Airport Project of the Year recognizing the creation of a Solar Farm on the property. The Solar Farm has its roots in a board decision back in 2017 – but was a forward-thinking way of getting Evansville on the map. With this award, it has done just that. “It’s wonderful to be recognized for the work that we’ve done,” says Hahn.“ It’s great to get recognized by your peers. But you know, more importantly, I think we are leading by example, and what is more, we are presenting ourselves in a certain way.”
“The moment you walk down the jet bridge and into our building you realize that this is a nice mix of a small hometown airport but also has all the amenities you’d expect at a much larger airport. Then when you walk out, and you see the Solar Farm, I think you realize the type of community you entered is progressive and forward-thinking. Our community wants to attract others that share that sentiment.”
Infrastructure projects at the airport that have also served the overall theme of growth and improvement over the last few months include expanding the parking lot, which before the pandemic was overflowing. They have started phase one of a multiphase project, relocating the entrance drive and then adding 300 spaces to the economy lot.
The idea is that this phase will set the stage to construct two further expansions. The board is also looking at a couple of internal, and external terminal projects such as upgraded wiring and plumbing. A lot of the money for these projects will come from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill. Next summer will see an airfield project to replace some lighting and the main cable to the taxiways.
“While they haven’t technically broken ground,” says Hahn. “Our next big construction project will be coming this spring and that is a new maintenance facility. Our previous maintenance building was cut off from the terminal and is five miles away from us around the perimeter road.”
“We are relocating for convenience and safety, as well as to make us feel like more of a team. Our old building is also 50-60 years old. It’s old enough that we ran out of places to store equipment, but also, we couldn’t get the size of equipment that we should have. For winter operations we should have bigger, wider blowers,” he elaborates. “We should have had wider brooms and better equipment to remove snow and ice, but we just didn’t have a place to put them. This will mean better access to the airfield, better access just from an employee communication and relationship standpoint and gives us the ability to house many more and larger pieces of snow removal equipment.”
All of this is done in conjunction with the community to work together to grow the region. EVV actively engages with the Evansville Chamber of Commerce, the Evansville Regional Economic Partnership, the Convention Center, and the Visitor’s Bureau. The town has done a lot recently to promote sports tourism to the area, which has been a boon to the airport in terms of travel, for example, and it is in planning and implementing these goals together that a community becomes stronger and moves forward.
“There are a lot of economic opportunities in this region, but there are so many other ways to grow the economy as well,” Nate concludes.
“When it comes to the airport and a vision of how to move forward, I see it as two-fold. First, we just have to recognize that our industry is in flux, and I don’t think anyone in aviation would disagree with that. From pilot shortage issues across the country to a lack of people entering all areas of the industry, we cannot meet the demand of what travelers want. So, from that perspective, our vision is to both stabilize what we have and prepare for the future.”
Hahn reflects, “We want to be able to get back to a growth model when it comes to the bigger picture. But secondly, our goal and the reason the airport exists is air service and we want to be asking what can we do to grow that and to continue to make the passenger experience something that will make you want to choose EVV out of any competitor airport.”
Looking ahead Hahn is clear on what he wants the airport to look like.
“We want the flying public to look at us and recognize that we are progressive, we are forward-looking, and we are working with them. It may seem too basic of an understanding, but airports exist to fly passengers – and our vision is to fly more passengers with better convenience and a better passenger experience in partnership with our airlines.”
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AT A GLANCE
Evansville Regional Airport
WHAT: A commercial and general aviation regional airport serving the tri-state area of Indiana.
WHERE: Evansville, the county seat of Vanderburgh County, Indiana.
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