Ohlund taxies to the end of a long career of leadership for the SL airport

Thursday, December 13, 2001

For the avid pilot, Robert Ohrlund has appreciated the chance to see the Storm Lake Municipal Airport evolve from the inside over the last 14 years.

Ohrlund is resigning from the Storm Lake Airport Commission at the end of the month. He has been chairman of the commission for most of those years.

"I think it's time for somebody else to step forward and do some of the work I'm doing," Ohrlund said.

While he is chair, Ohrlund is quick to point out that it is the entire five-member airport commission that makes things happen. Commission members are appointed by the mayor.

Much has happened for the 14 years Ohrlund has served on the airport commission, from the construction of a new terminal building, an extension of the primary runway to 5,000 feet, a new apron, and most recently a new six-unit hangar.

Ohrlund is proud of those projects, and notes that most of them were funded through state and federal matching grants, keeping the costs to the city relatively low. Business and private users of the airport have also contributed to the projects, he added.

"All those things put together, the airport has a lot of activity out there," Ohrlund said. "People don't always see that, don't always know that, but there are business jets and aircraft flying in there every day."

Having a functional and well-maintained airport is an economic boost for the city.

"It's the way business operates - by air now. You don't see anybody coming in on bus, there's no passenger train rolling into town," Ohrlund said.

While automobiles are a mainstay for most Americans, Ohrlund said many of Storm Lake's corporations regularly use the airport for travel to and from meetings. The terminal building also has a conference room, allowing some businesses to conduct meetings right there at the airport.

Also, with airport manager Jim Bartholomew, the Storm Lake airport offers aircraft maintenance and repair, as well as flight instruction and access to charter service.

"While I'm biased, we do have one of the nicest airports for a community our size in the whole state," Ohrlund said. "We have good access without any obstructions."

Currently the commission is completing a new airport layout plan, which is required periodically by the state and FFA. And more projects loom on the horizon, Ohrlund said.

"Our hope in the not too distant future is to construct a parallel taxiway to the primary runway," Ohrlund said. "It's a safety issue more than anything else. As traffic increases that's an important feature."

Plans are also to increase the prominence of the local airport in the area.

"We're looking to make the Storm Lake Airport a regional facility, and just like the hospital has become Buena Vista Regional Medical Center, we are looking at a Storm Lake Municipal Regional Airport.

"It's been a real pleasure to serve and help the community to develop and maintain the airport facility we have," Ohrlund said, who plans to fly more in his single-engine Cherokee-Dakota and visit children and family.

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