The construction of a new, larger terminal building for the airport is currently underway and is the culmination of over two years work by the Donalsonville-Seminole County Airport Commission. County, city, chamber, and community leaders were on hand Wednesday morning to officially break ground on the project.
The goal of the new facility is to provide a welcoming visual and favorable first impression of Donalsonville and Seminole County to the flying public when they come to Donalsonville as either an industry leader, a sportsman, or just for a visit.
The new terminal building will be a brick structure of approximately 2600 square feet and will contain a conference room, office space, and a pilot’s lounge. This replaces the original 500 square foot terminal building that had reached the end of its service life. Construction of the new terminal building is being funded by the State of Georgia and the Federal Aviation Administration along with matching funds provided by the Donalsonville-Seminole County Airport commission at no cost to local taxpayers.
The Donalsonville-Seminole County Airport, located just south of the Donalsonville City limits on Highway 39, is a valuable asset to the City of Donalsonville and Seminole County. The airport not only provides benefits for our corner of Georgia, but also to the surrounding area of Northwest Florida and Southeast Alabama. It is one of the many engines that helps drive the local economy. The Georgia Department of Transportation performed an Economic Impact Study of the Donalsonville-Seminole County Airport to determine the economic effect the airport has on the surrounding area. The study shows there are 60 jobs created either directly or indirectly by the airport and related activities with a payroll of over $1,900,000 per year. The total economic activity created by the airport for our area is estimated to be $5,400,000 annually. This figure includes payroll, capital investment, and what visitors spend at local businesses when they land at our airport. This is money that goes directly into the local economy!
The Donalsonville-Seminole County Airport was created out of necessity during the early years of World War II and was used to help train the thousands of Allied pilots needed to defeat the Axis Powers of Germany, Italy, and Japan. The U.S. government purchased 65 acres of land from J.F. Reynolds and another 650 acres from Henry O. Cummings in the Fall of 1942 to build what was originally known as the Donalsonville Auxiliary Field Number 1. The field originally consisted of three runways. One east-west runway, one northwest / southeast runway, and one north-south runway (the only one still in use today). There were several buildings for support personnel including a barracks and a building for a fire truck. None of these buildings survive today. Donalsonville Auxiliary Field Number 1 was one of six auxiliary practice fields built for the Bainbridge Army Airfield (now known as the Decatur County Industrial Airpark) that was being constructed north of Bainbridge, Georgia in 1942.
As the war was winding down in 1944, the War Assets Administration declared the Donalsonville Auxiliary Field Number 1 to be surplus to the needs of the United States and was slated for disposal after the war. The land, runways, and buildings were deeded to Donalsonville-Seminole County on November 22, 1946 by the War Assets Administration for the creation of a public use airport. The Airport became known as the Donalsonville-Seminole County Airport at this time.
To maintain and improve the airport, the Donalsonville-Seminole County Airport Commission was created by a joint resolution by the Donalsonville City Council and the Seminole County Board of Commissioners in November of 1994. The Commission was created to facilitate the advancement and control of the airport to better serve the interests of the residents and taxpayers of Seminole County. The goal of the Commission is to continually improve the Donalsonville-Seminole County Airport using FAA entitlement moneys along with State matching funds that result in no cost to the taxpayers of Seminole County. The airport is one of only a few airports of this size to be financially self-sufficient and does not require taxpayer funds from the local government to meet the budgetary needs of the airport.
There are currently 27 airplanes and several ultra-lite type aircraft based at the Donalsonville Airport. There are thousands of operations per year at our airport with aircraft taking off or landing at a steady pace every day, making it one of the busiest small airports in the state. On any given day and time, you can hear the sound of an agricultural aircraft in the air spraying crops for local farmers. Even the military uses the Donalsonville Airport for training purposes. Helicopters from Fort Rucker, Alabama and fixed wing aircraft from Hurlbert Field near Fort Walton Beach, Florida frequent our airport.
Many improvements have been made at the airport in recent years. The addition of 13 enclosed hangers has brought in pilots from not only Donalsonville, but from the surrounding area as well as they house their airplanes here. Improvements in the runway and taxiway lighting by the addition of LED lighting has made night operations safer for pilots. An automated weather reporting station that continuously broadcasts the current weather conditions was installed. This allows the flying public to hear the current weather conditions at the airport just by tuning in their radios to the proper frequency.
The main runway and taxiway were extended by 330 feet to a total length of 5512 feet in 2019. This runway length opens the Donalsonville Airport to more business jet traffic since 5500 feet of runway is required by a large number of business jets to operate safely. The runway extension was funded by the State of Georgia as part of an additional $25,000,000 that was allocated to Georgia airports by Governor Deal in the 2018 state budget for airports. This allocation was over and above the normal budgeted amount for airports in the State of Georgia. The Donalsonville-Seminole County Airport was one of only 11 airports in the state that received money from this allocation. Our airport was fortunate to receive a share of these funds for the runway extension project. This project had been on the airport improvement plan for some time and was slated for implementation in the future. Receiving the extra funding allowed the runway extension to be completed years ahead of schedule.
Additional items planned in the future are the addition of more hanger space, a fuel farm replacement, expanding the ramp area, and resurfacing the main runway and taxiways. There are also plans to rehabilitate and open the east/west runway that has been closed for several years when funds become available.
Pictured above, ceremoniously breaking ground for the airport’s new terminal, are Will Beason, Clay Wilkes,Travis Brooks, Jeff Hatcher, Marty Shingler, Tori Gravlee, Mitch Blanks, Ed Bond, Wayne Worsham, Mitze Moye, Nancy Jernigan, Sarah Avery, Jerry Isler, Wade Spooner, David Maxwell and Mark Spooner.