Despite the ongoing turmoil in aviation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a New Mexico airport is proceeding with its plans for a new general aviation terminal.
Belen Regional Airport (KBRG) is approximately 25 nautical miles southwest of Albuquerque. In addition to a strong local general aviation presence, the airport has also seen an increase in transient GA and business aviation traffic since the addition of a crosswind runway in 2015. The airport also hosts U.S. Air Force (USAF) training ops from nearby Kirtland Air Force Base.
Despite this growth, the field currently offers just a small pilot lounge to host visitors, according to a post on the general aviation advocacy site No Plane No Gain.
“Efforts to build a new terminal go back a decade or so, and it’s taken some time to muster the money together to fund the initial design proposal,” said Belen Mayor Jerah Cordova. “With that in hand, plans have accelerated over the past month and a half and everyone has been completely supportive of the project.”
In addition to offering significantly more space for pilots and passengers, the new design also includes a café and dining room, meeting facilities and a fire station to not only serve the airport and meet USAF aircraft rescue and firefighting requirements, but also protect residents of the city’s west side.
Cordova noted the current design proposal also features classrooms for training pilots and maintenance professionals, along with students from nearby schools.
“We’ve seen a growing interest in our airport, and we hope to establish programs within that facility to bring students in for flight lessons,” he added.
Traffic growth, USAF operations and enthusiastic city support have all helped KBRG operate in the black over the past several years. Cordova expects the recent addition of a Jet-A fueling truck to supplement the field’s existing fuel farm will bring even more turbine aircraft to the field.
The airport is exploring a variety of funding options for the new terminal, including grants from the USAF and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and rural development loans. While state-level funding options remain uncertain due to the coronavirus pandemic, officials are also watching Belen’s plans with interest.
“We’re very excited to see this plan moving ahead,” said Dan Moran, finance and administration manager for the Aviation Division of the New Mexico Department of Transportation. “With many airports currently struggling in this environment, BRG is a bright spot on the balance sheet.”