As Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport’s expansion nears completion, officials are “seeing the fruits” of the ongoing project.
The airport began expanding in November 2012, following years of planning, because the facility was seeing unparalleled growth with a near 10 percent annual increase in passenger boardings.
Matt Van Valkenburgh, director of aviation, said as the planning process was nearing its execution phase, the aviation industry took a hit when the economy suffered through a recession, but officials made the decision to move forward with the planned expansion.
“People didn’t want to travel,” he said.
“We had done the planning and had everything laid out and approved. We decided to move forward because we knew better days were coming.”
Van Valkenburgh said the facility is “already seeing the fruits” of the decision to move forward.
Over the past 12 months, the airport has seen a 6.38 percent increase in boardings. In 2012, the total number was 169,197 passengers.
The expansion included adding 1,400 square feet to the facility’s two holding rooms and additional retail space and expanding the second floor common area by 800 square feet.
“Our holding rooms were the right size at the time, but as we got more and more people in, it was becoming a little cramped,” Van Valkenburgh said. “We’re also a reliever airport, so we get a lot of diverted air traffic. We were finding when we had two or three of these planes on the ramp, we didn’t have anywhere to put the people to off-load them. Now, with our larger hold rooms, it really makes a big difference.”
He said the expansion also gave the airport the opportunity to upgrade its systems, making the facility more cost-effective. Internal improvements to maintenance spaces have also been completed.
The final phase is clearing the lobby of baggage checks and moving those operations behind the scenes, and upgrading Transportation Security Administration systems used for scanning baggage.
“We have the new system virtually complete, but it’s in the testing phase now,” Van Valkenburgh said. “It won’t be ready for release for another few months.”
He said the facility has to wait for feedback from TSA before implementing the changes. Square-footage was also added for TSA offices and training areas.
Van Valkenburgh said with the expansion, the airport also plans to launch a “very robust” marketing campaign highlighting the benefits of using the facility.