The Roy Blunt Terminal, hub to commercial airline traffic at the Springfield-Branson National Airport, as seen from the air. (Photo taken from the Greene County Assessor's Office Public GIS viewer)

Money from the federal government will change the experience of airline travel in Springfield. With a nearly 20-percent increase in passenger volume year-over-year, the news comes at a good time for people who travel by plane.

Part of outgoing U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt’s last set of congressional earmarks included $6.4 million to expand the apron at Springfield-Branson National Airport. The apron, or ramp, is a paved area in front of the passenger terminal where large planes park, fuel and load passengers.

According to information from the airport, the total cost of the ramp expansion will be about $8.8 million, and will cut down on congestion that can occur when the airport is busy and several planes are arriving and departing at close times.

“Airport infrastructure is tremendously expensive,” Director of Aviation Brian Weiler said. “The help of our congressional delegation, and Sen. Blunt in particular, has made it possible for us to keep up with growing customer demand for airline service. The better our infrastructure, the better the customer service experience.” 

Weiler said Springfield passengers can experience delayed flights because of a lack of room on the existing ramp. A larger apron will provide more room for jets to maneuver, and eventually accommodate the expansion of the airline terminal.

A timetable for apron expansion has not been set, but work is expected to begin in the next two to three years. 

An illustration shows how the ramp at the commercial airline terminal at the Springfield-Branson National Airport will be expanded to give large planes more room to maneuver. (Illustration provided by the Springfield-Branson National Airport)

Passenger traffic soars upward in 2022

The latest available traffic data for the Springfield-Branson National Airport is from September 2022, showing figures for the first three quarters of the year compared to the first three quarters of 2021. The report shows a 19.3-percent growth in the number of departing passengers, from 347,199 to 414,374, and an 18.6-percent increase in arriving passengers, from 350,882 to 416,285. All told, the airport reported 830,659 passengers in the first three quarters of 2022.

Envoy Air, or American Eagle, was the largest passenger carrier in the first nine months of 2022, carrying 339,349 people in and out of Springfield. Delta, United and Allegiant all reported gains in passenger traffic in 2022.

Prior to the arrival of COVID-19, the Springfield-Branson National Airport set a record in 2019 with 1,187,008 total passengers in 12 months.

In July 2022, the airport set a record with 107,272 passengers in a single month. That’s in spite of airlines cutting back on the number of available flights at Springfield and across the country at the destinations they serve. Allegiant Air reduced its Springfield summer schedule by 15-20 percent, citing “limited crew resources,” according to information from the Springfield-Branson National Airport. Allegiant made similar reductions nationwide. Other carriers made similar scheduling reductions.

An illustrated aerial photograph shows the location of the commercial airplane ramp at the Springfield-Branson National Airport, as related to the airport’s two runways. (Photograph taken from the Greene County Assessor’s Office Public GIS viewer, illustrated by Rance Burger)

The Midfield Terminal at the Springfield-Branson National Airport opened in May 2009. It was renamed the Roy Blunt Terminal thanks to a resolution the Springfield City Council adopted with an 8-0 vote at the end of 2022. The Roy Blunt Terminal is the commercial flight terminal at Springfield, with 10 gates serving passenger airlines.

In February 2020, Blunt helped the Springfield-Branson National Airport secure an Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grant for more than $7 million from the Federal Aviation Administration. The grant funded runway and taxiway improvements.

The 2020 grant package went to reconstruct 1,900 feet of taxiway pavement, rehabilitate another 2,866 feet of taxiway pavement, and rehabilitate 400 feet of Runway 2/20, the eastern runway at the Springfield-Branson National Airport.

In 2022, Blunt also helped direct $5.6 million in federal funding for construction of an aircraft maintenance hangar at the Missouri National Guard Aviation Classification Repair Activity Depot (AVCRAD) at the Springfield-Branson National Airport. The project will allow for safer and more efficient work on military helicopters.

The commercial terminal at Springfield-Branson National Airport has 10 gates for passengers to access commercial flights. (Photo by Rance Burger)

Rance Burger

Rance Burger covers local government for the Daily Citizen. His goal is to help people know more about what projects their government is involved in, and how their tax dollars are being spent. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia with 15 years experience in journalism. Reach him at rburger@sgfcitizen.org or by calling 417-837-3669. Twitter: @RanceBurger More by Rance Burger