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The Hillsdale Municipal Airport.
Thomas Novelly/Collegian

When Hillsdale Municipal Assistant Manager Scott Curry goes to refuel jets, he fills the fuel truck and drives to the plain on the taxiway. Because the airport’s fuel farm is presently out­dated, jet planes can’t fill directly from the tank. The fuel truck serves as a go-between, bringing fuel to the plane and pro­viding another filter for the fuel.

The airport is ren­o­vating its fuel farms, a project which it should com­plete by the end of the year, as part of its ini­tiative to expand and update the current airport facil­ities.

Hillsdale Municipal Airport con­tinues its steady course of mod­ern­ization. Years ago, workers extended the runway by 100 feet to bring the runway to 5,000 by 100 feet — large enough for a Gulf­stream air­plane.

“We put 1,000 extra feet on the runway because of the demand for larger jets to come in,” Curry said.

Last October, workers com­pleted an expanded apron, where pas­sengers can more easily board the plane. Future airport plans could include building new hangars on the apron or even a new ter­minal.

“Projects such as the new ter­minal and tee hangers could hope­fully be funded by private indi­viduals,” Airport Manager Ginger Moore said. “Often, the people who own the jet will build them. We have the land lease. They’ll show us their plans, and we move forward from there.”

Its latest improvement, the fuel farm, is funded by state dollars.

“The Michigan Department of Trans­portation gives us $150,000 in enti­tlement money a year,” Moore said. “That money comes from taxes on avi­ation fuel, so it’s not like it would be going to roads. The city pays only five percent.”

Before the airport can move forward on certain improve­ments, such as a taxi-way extension, it must upgrade the fuel farm.

“The taxiway extension would go right through the fuel farm,” Curry said.

The current fuel farm also needs improvement in its own right.

“Our fuel farm is so out­dated,” Curry said. “The new fuel farm will be up to industry stan­dards.”

The new fuel farm, which should be com­pleted this year, also makes it easier for cus­tomers to fuel their planes.

“The new fuel farm is above­ground,” Airport Mechanic Monico Lopez said. “Pilots can move the air­craft to the tanks and pump their own fuel after paying via credit card. It’s much easier for pilots which would draw more traffic to the airport.”

And the improve­ments seem to be drawing more traffic to the airport.

“Since I got here two years ago, the airport has really grown,” Curry said. “There’s only one spot available in the hangars.”

The airport has seen more cor­porate clients.

“The airport is moving toward cor­porate air­craft and cor­po­ra­tions using their air­craft to travel around,” Moore said. “In the past, people could own a single engine air­plane and use it for fun. But that’s going by the wayside.”

“Most hob­byists now are older gen­tlemen,” Curry said. “In the 1970s, it used to be like having a car. Fuel wasn’t out­ra­geous, insurance was rea­sonable, and parts were easy to find. But times have changed.”

Hillsdale Municipal Airport’s ren­o­va­tions in the future should help it adjust, Curry said.

“It’s a long, drawn-out process,” Curry said. “The ren­o­va­tions today were started 10 years ago. It moves really slow. The fuel farm is just the beginning of things.”