Local airport involved in DeKalb community


A 1975 Mig 21 (left) and a Piper Warrior II (right side) inside a hangar at the Dekalb Taylor Municipal Airport.

By Ali Combs

DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport, 3232 Pleasant St., has been a source of revenue and recreation for local residents since 1944.

T.J. Moore, city director of public works, said the airport is made of three main components: general aviation, corporate and cargo.

General aviation consists of private enjoyment, meaning private plane owners who fly planes for personal reasons. Corporate aviation spans from use for large companies with local distributors to private businesspeople who own planes to fly around the country to meet with clients. The cargo component is mostly last-minute deliveries for local warehouses.

“I’ve been here for four years,” said hangar tenant Paul van den Heuvel. “I was at Rockford for five years, but this place can’t be beat. They have affordable rent and fuel.”

The airport also houses a flight school and programs for pilot training.

“Fly America starts with people with no time all the way through certification,” said Fly America owner Jeffrey Kohlert.

In addition to Fly America, the airport has a flight school program for high school students. There are currently six high schools involved with the program.

Airport manager Tom Cleveland said there are very few programs of this kind. The high school program offers pilot and air traffic control training as well as up to eight hours of college credit.

Cleveland said he invites schools to the airport for tours each spring. There are usually between 400 and 500 students in attendance.

“You see all these signs that say ‘Do Not Enter’ and ‘Authorized Personnel Only,’ and people get the wrong idea,” Cleveland said. “The nice thing is I can teach kids and let them sit in a pilot seat, and I get to inform teachers about what’s going on out here.”

The Illinois Department of Transportation published the Illinois Statewide Aviation Economic Impact Study, which says DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport makes a $10.7 million impact on the DeKalb community and impacts the creation of 81 jobs.

“The airport is owned by the city, and it does generate revenue,” Moore said.

Moore and Cleveland both said the airport fund usually runs a deficit of around $250,000, but this does not take into account the money being put back into the community by individuals whose employment is an effect of the airport or the money spent in DeKalb by visitors being flown into the airport.

“A lot of the benefits of the airport are seen in the business community,” Moore said. “The airport fund may run a deficit of about $250,000, but this year we are predicting a deficit of about $50,000, which is a huge gain.”

This gain has come from airport traffic, fuel sales, federal funding and farming the land around the airport, along with various other sources.

“We’ve been very aggressive in getting federal funding over the past 20 years,” Cleveland said.

For more information, go to www.fly-america.com.