The Sky’s the Limit for the Battle Creek Executive Airport at Kellogg Field
If you thought Battle Creek’s airport was a lonely little place that nobody ever visits, think again. In 2020, it was the third busiest airport in Michigan in terms of airport operations--busier than Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Lansing, and Flint. It’s busier than every airport in Michigan except for Detroit Metro and Oakland County International.
Larry Bowron is the Aviation Director for the City of Battle Creek and has been involved with the airport for more than 20 years. He’s seen a lot of change over those two decades, and in the last year, the name changed. The airport is now called the Battle Creek Executive Airport at Kellogg Field.
“We never really had our own identity and this new logo and the new name has allowed us to do that,” said Bowron. “And I can tell you it's been overwhelmingly embraced by the community. People are excited about it. We need to tell the story of what a wonderful economic development asset this facility is for, for our community.” New logos are also helping to re-brand the airport and tie it to the community. Both include the names “Battle Creek” and “Kellogg”, and one displays the BTL Airport Code.
Bowron says they’re just about to install a new sign at the main entrance on South Airport Road, just off Columbia Avenue/Skyline Drive, near Duncan Aviation. “There'll be a beautiful monument sign and it's going to have a nice LED digital display so we can convey messages to the public,” said Bowron. “Our tenants can advertise on it and it's going to be a beautiful addition. It's under construction right now. If you drive by, you'll see the brick and stuff going up”.
Next to a Duncan Aviation is WACO Aircraft where they’re building vintage airplanes, and now they've got their new restaurant, WACO Kitchen open.
“WACO is investing $18 million in their facility. They built two new hangers and a new fixed-base operator. They're now refinishing the existing buildings that were there for office space. They've doubled their employment in the community and they're going to start remanufacturing the F-13 Junker. It's a large all-metal aircraft that was used early in European air transport. And that's one of the vintage aircraft you're going to be able to see if you go up to WACO Kitchen and mosey around and take a look down in the hangar where they're manufacturing these aircraft.”
Bowron says the The College of Aviation at Western Michigan University, arguably the third largest collegiate flight training institution in the United States., is about 75% done with its $22 million renovations and expansion project.
“They're building additional classroom space, additional lab space, a small hangar where the mechanics that are going through the airframe and power plant program can work on aircraft. That's going to allow them to increase their capacity so they can take not only more flight students, but they’ve endeavored to produce more mechanics”. Bowron says WMU also has an airport management curriculum.
The most potentially exciting thing of all is that Battle Creek’s airport has a pretty big chunk of undeveloped property. Not too many airports can say that. The West side of the airfield has a potentially 120-acre site that could be the home of a large aerospace company. “It’s one contiguous site and it's through our partnership with Battle Creek Unlimited and the Battle Creek TIFA. Significant investment has been made to bring in about 400,000 cubic yards of material, and we're almost there. Think about the potential on a site like that with access to a 10,000-foot runway. You're in the Midwest, with a military presence. We believe that we can attract significant business.”
Bowron says plans are moving forward for this year’s 2021 Battle Creek Field of Flight, June 30 - July 4. He says Battle Creek is very lucky to have a lot of really cool events that have allowed the community to get a hands-on experience with the airport. “There's a lot of fence, there's a lot of science, but the airport still belongs to the community. The Battle Creek Field of Flight is a wonderful time for our community to come out, lay their hands on that airport and touch it, feel it, look around and see things up close”.