2022 proved to be a solid year for St. Louis Downtown Airport, with highlights ranging from the arrival of a new director and continuation of strong flight operations to the return of in-person events aimed at growing the aviation industry workforce. Add in the groundbreaking for a significant new project and expansion plans revealed for its largest tenant, and the airport is looking to the future with an eye on continued growth.
To help lead operations at the busiest airport in Illinois outside of Chicago, Bi-State Development welcomed Sandra Shore as the new director of St. Louis Downtown Airport in February. With the airport’s enviable location just minutes from downtown St. Louis making it a popular choice for those flying into the bi-state area for business and major events, overall flight operations remained strong and steady last year under Shore’s leadership. A substantial increase in charter flights can be directly correlated to the NASCAR Cup Series race held at nearby World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Ill., which drew 56 charter flights in June. The airport also recorded two of its three best months in fuel sales in the last five years in 2022, a trend expected to continue in 2023.
St. Louis Downtown Airport will see additional growth in 2023 when its largest tenant, Gulfstream Aerospace, expands operations and adds 140 new jobs. Gulfstream Aerospace is one of the tenants that will benefit from the latest infrastructure investment underway at the airport – a new ground engine run up and compass calibration pad. Construction began last fall on the $5.4 million project, which secured $5 million in state funding through the $45 billion Rebuild Illinois Capital Infrastructure Plan. Upon completion in 2023, it will improve production safety, reliability and efficiency, boost airport businesses and increase global competitiveness for southwestern Illinois and the State of Illinois. Five million dollars in state funding was secured for the project.
Gulfstream Aerospace and other aircraft maintenance tenants will use the project’s new airfield pavement with jet blast deflectors to perform aircraft maintenance tests requiring the operation of an engine at high power on the ground for several minutes generating elevated noise levels. The new engine run up area will be located 1,850 feet from other parked aircraft and isolated from airport operations, ultimately reducing aircraft engine run-up noise by more than 50% and accommodating the airport’s largest aircraft.
Located on 1,000 acres in St. Clair County in Cahokia Heights and Sauget, St. Louis Downtown Airport and its tenants contribute more than $422 million in economic impact for the region and more than 1,500 full-time and part-time jobs, according to the most recent study conducted by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT).
“The diversity of operations occurring at St. Louis Downtown Airport contributes to our role as an economic engine for the bi-state St. Louis region and makes us a key contributor to the tremendous strength of the aviation sector in the State of Illinois,” said Mary Lamie, Executive Vice President of Multi Modal Enterprises at Bi-State Development, which owns and operates the airport as one of its enterprises.
The economic impact of St. Louis Downtown Airport and other airports in the St. Louis region was the focus of an insightful panel discussion hosted by the St. Louis Regional Freightway in November. Shore and directors from four other busy airports – St. Louis Lambert International Airport, Spirt of St. Louis Airport, MidAmerica St. Louis Airport and St. Louis Regional Airport – participated in the event. The panel discussion highlighted the unique attributes and contributions of each airport and underscored the collective impact of the aviation industry in the region.
“The collaboration that takes place among our airports is unique in the aviation industry and a model for success,” said Shore. “Collectively, between airport operations and tenants, our five facilities account for more than 36,500 jobs and generate a combined annual economic impact that exceeds $10 billion and is growing.”
A key focus within that growing industry is attracting future workers to fill a wide range of positions. With that in mind, St. Louis Downtown Airport welcomed the return of in-person events at the airport in 2022 in collaboration with St. Louis University’s Oliver L. Parks Department of Aviation Science (SLU). The Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA) joined with SLU to host Aviation Day for Educators in June, bringing educators from six school districts in southwestern Illinois and Eastern Illinois University to the airport. SLU’s Aviation Summer Academy attracted participants from 11 states who spent a week learning about different aspects of aviation and related careers and experienced the thrill of flying. Girls in Aviation Day in October, a career expo, provided an opportunity for more than 100 young women to climb into the cockpits of various aircraft and fly planes in high-tech simulators.
Bi-State Development (BSD) owns and operates St. Louis Downtown Airport and the Gateway Arch Riverboats, and operates the Gateway Arch Revenue Collections Center and Gateway Arch trams. BSD is the operator of the main public transportation system in eastern Missouri and southwestern Illinois, which includes the 87 vehicle, 46-mile MetroLink light rail system; a MetroBus vehicle fleet of approximately 24 battery electric vehicles and more than 260 clean-burning diesel buses that operate on 58 MetroBus routes; and Metro Call-A-Ride, a paratransit fleet of 123 vans. BSD also operates the St. Louis Regional Freightway, the region’s freight district. To learn more about St. Louis Downtown Airport, visit www.stlouisdowntownairport.com.