Athletes to fly with DeKalb airport come August


A corporate jet departs the DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport after conducting business in DeKalb. The DeKalb Airport hopes to soon provide a more convenient option for NIU teams.

By Hany Abdel

Athletics will be up and away when it’s allowed to use the DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport for travel, which may come as soon as August.

For more than 20 years, the DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport, 3232 Pleasant St., has plugged away with yearly reviews from the Federal Aviation Administration, state and DeKalb City Council, which will lead to a new relationship between the airport and NIU. The city has been working toward attaining a partial 139 limited commercial classification, which would allow for NIU teams and their opponents to fly in and out of the city’s airport.

Currently, NIU and away teams fly to and from area airports, with Rockford Airport being the closest at about 40 miles from campus.

“We’d like to see that travel be done out of the DeKalb Airport rather than having the teams travel to Rockford or a Chicago metropolitan airport. We are certainly a regional airport that is much more accessible to NIU for such travels,” said DeKalb Mayor John Rey.

Airport manager Tom Cleveland wants NIU to be able to travel out of its own backyard by August.

“The FAA has to do inspections, and we have to come up with an airport certification manual and some equipment, and we’re partnering with NIU in trying to get it done…,” Cleveland said. “We’ve been acquiring equipment over the past few years to try to get this done, but we are pushing towards next August.”

The university met with the city several months ago to discuss the necessary certifications and weight restrictions that come with chartering teams. Across all sports, Athletics will schedule 15 to 25 flights a year. Any competition further than 400 miles or longer than a nine-hour bus ride will warrant a flight.

“It’s a great opportunity to get the fans to see our kids as they enter and exit, being close to the university campus,” said Christian Spears, deputy director of Athletics. “When you have the opportunity to fly in and out of your home community you’re keeping everything right here in DeKalb, which is something we want to do as a university — be a better partner with the city.”

Cleveland referred to the airport as the economic engine for the community and the county. Landing instruments and a 7,025-foot runway have allowed for corporate jets to fly into DeKalb to do business.

“The major companies have flight departments. Target, 3M, all the Fortune 500 companies pretty much have jets,” Cleveland said. “We can accommodate pretty much any corporate jet that’s out there now with the long runway we have. It makes it a lot easier on them because it’s all about accessibility to the area that they want to do business in.”