Dayton Wright Brother Airport. STAFF PHOTO / SARAH FRANKS
Photo: Sarah Franks
Photo: Sarah Franks

NEW DETAILS: Wright Brothers airport eyes growth as upgrades continue

Driving the expansion, according to those in the industry: Strong corporate and retail interest in the Austin Boulevard interchange of Interstate 75; a renewed vision in recent years for the airport’s future; and greater convenience for business travelers.

Growth at the 527-acre, Dayton-owned site on Ohio 741 in Miami Twp. is bucking the trend of many airports because it has undeveloped land, which is in short supply for many aviation hubs, industry analyst Jay Ratliff said.

“It’s exciting to see,” Ratliff said, noting that DWB “has the ability to grow. A lot of airports don’t have that. It’s very difficult to turn that spigot on once it’s turned off.”

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Longtime pilot Bill Leff said a few months ago he and Bob Steele decided to build new hangars there after a lease for one their companies share was not renewed, because of the Connor Group’s plans for more space for its corporate aircraft.

The Connor Group in 2018 built a $5 million, 17,000-square-foot hangar next to its headquarters. Former Dayton Aviation Director Terry Slaybaugh earlier this year said the company plans to invest about $2.5 million more for additional hangar space, records show.

“The Connor Group may tear down and rebuild” the hangar Leff and Steele leased “or possibly expand our current hangar,” the company said in an email Friday. “These plans are very much in the preliminary stages.”

Dayton officials expect that project to begin next year. “They will probably start breaking ground in the next six months,” said Mike Cross, manager of planning and engineer for Dayton International Airport. “That’s what I would anticipate.”

Those plans for more hangar space all came after the Federal Aviation Administration last year approved an updated airport master plan. The plan includes a 500-foot extension of the 5,000-foot runway – a move that may result in realigning part of Austin Boulevard — to accommodate larger aircraft.

They also followed the rezoning of more than 300 acres Miami Twp. approved last December to help guide future development, especially on the east side of the airport, which borders Springboro and Washington Twp.

Meanwhile, a $550,769 project started in 2017 to remove utility lines and trees along Ohio 741 has been completed, Cross said. Two other jobs – whose contracts totaling $744,490 were awarded last month – include 3,500 feet of wildlife fencing and a taxi lane creating access to the hangars being built by Leff and Steele along Ohio 741, he said.

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Leff, who has flown out of DWB for decades, said Dayton and Miami Twp. have put greater emphasis on improvements at Dayton-Wright Brothers in recent years and he expects it to become a more popular transportation option.

“It’s a great location and it provides service to people north of Cincinnati,” he said. “It’s right on the interstate corridor, so it’s great thing to have for the southern Dayton business community.”

The business growth around the Austin interchange – anchored by Austin Landing – has been a significant factor in the interest at DWB, said Ratliff, a Miami Twp. resident.

“It’s becoming more and more of a known quantity,” he said. “As the Austin area continues to grow, you’re going see a demand for private travel.”

A change in corporate travel habits has also made regional airports a preferred choice for businesses looking for an alternative to long waits at the larger hubs, Ratliff said. “More people are going the route of the (smaller) airport,” he said. “You can go through the lobby and away you go.”

More corporations are investing in planes or sharing jets with other businesses, Ratliff added.

“You’re seeing more and more men and women travel that way – using private jets for business travel,” he said.

Changes in and around DWB commonly draw concern from nearby residents. Public forums on the master plan before it was approved drew scrutiny on how much the changes – especially the runway extension – could impact noise, traffic and the environment.

A feasibility study on the runway extension is being done now to decide whether Austin Boulevard has to be realigned, Cross said. An environmental impact study will follow, he said.

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