In their first meeting of the year, Manhattan Airport Advisory Board members looked back at 2022 – which Airport Director Brandon Keazer says was marked by a return to consistency.

The Regional Airport saw a return to 5 daily flights at the beginning of the year, and Keazer says the year was great for commercial enplanement numbers.

“We finished the year with 73,962 enplanements,” Keazer says. “That is the second highest amount of enplanements that we’ve had on record.”

That’s up significantly from 2021, which saw 57 thousand enplanements in Manhattan – though still a little behind the airport’s record in 2019 of 77 thousand.

“There was a lot of pent up demand, and a lot of people wanted to get back out and travel.”

Keazer says those figures don’t include charter flights, numbers for which should come in a couple months from now – though he anticipates that will push overall enplanements close to 80 thousand.

Load factors on flights were also about 75 percent for the year.

2022 also saw a record number of aircraft operations at the Manhattan Regional Airport, with the boost not coming entirely from the commercial side of things.

“There was a big, big jump on the general aviation side.”

Aircraft operations at the facility saw a dip in 2021 – from over 32 thousand in 2020 to 28 thousand. 2022, though, the airport reported over 41 thousand operations throughout the year.

That trend was similar specifically when looking at general aviation – which rose from nearly 24 thousand to over 34 thousand operations in 2022.

“In 2022, you guys got to hear from three different organizations on our field,” says Keazer. “FlexAir, GATTS and K-State Flying Club — and they all told you about how they were having some pretty good years, and this showed.”

The field was filled out with about 4,000 commercial operations and 2800 military flights – the latter of which is up from the just over 1,000 seen in 2021.

As airport officials look into 2023, a major project looms in the long-planned runway reconstruction project. The soon-to-be 44-year-old surface has managed to stay in good shape for twice its estimated life-span, though is now showing visible signs of wear — prompting planning for the reconstruction. With FAA and Department of Defense funding, the local share of the project’s cost is about $3 million.

There will be a 3-day closure at the end of March when Phase 2 of the project begins. It isn’t until Phase 3 begins on May 12 when the airport will see service interruptions, which will halt American Airlines flights until the end of August when the project wraps up.

A major focus of Keazer’s year, he’s also hoping in 2023 to pursue funding for hangars at the facility in 2023, now open to federal funding under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed in late 2021.

“Under typical AIP rules, we’re not eligible for what the FAA calls ‘revenue generating facilities’ — which is hangars — because we’re too big,” he says. “BIL, when it was passed, it opened up that funding for revenue generating facilities.”

AIP or Airport Improvement Program projects approved by the FAA typically can receive 90 percent funding from the federal government – with a 10 percent local match, similar to the funding breakdown of the runway project.

With that funding formula now open to projects on structures such as hangars, which can bring in new businesses and revenue to the airport, Keazer sees pursuing funds for their development as a goal this year.

“It is a difficult and arduous process that we have to go through to do that,” Keazer says. “Now we can start scheduling meetings and actually have a meeting with the FAA and with Olsson to talk about utilizing those BIL funds and getting a project going on some hangar development over on the GA side.”