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Solon Springs flies with opportunity for pilots

The Solon Springs airport is on an upward trajectory — growing with an eye to the future.

"Thirteen years ago, we had six hangars, today we have eighteen and more on the horizon," said John Shupe, a member of the airport commission. "More hangars means more income for the airport operation — they all pay rent and property taxes.

Over those year, the commission has added a new terminal building with a meeting room and lounge for pilots complete with a stove, sink, microwave, TV and computer, plus two bathrooms, each with a shower. Two other small rooms are available for rent in the geothermally heated and cooled building that runs only on electricity — no propane.

In the past twelve months the average electric bill was $113.92 a month, Shupe said.

With the help of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the commission had a well drilled.

The Solon Springs fire department and others use it, Shupe said. In the spring, when fire conditions are high, the DNR fire control sometimes has their water bombers, which carry 800 gallons of water, stationed here in Solon Springs, he said. They also use the terminal building for their operations center.

"We also have a new fueling system that accepts credit cards, whereas our old system didn't accept credit cards, and often didn't work," Shupe said.

The expansion includes 67 acres of land west of the runway, and on that property, a new Automated Weather Observation System receiver. This official weather reporting station can be used by pilots and the public.

Four years ago, the commission installed a "PAPI" (Precision Approach Path Indicator), which is a lighted glide slope for landing in adverse weather or at night, a must for Life Flight operations.

Two years ago the runway was ground up and new asphalt was put down, along with the taxiway and ramp area. New runway lights and marker lights were also installed.

In August, the airport's lighted Helipad was completed, providing a safe landing zone for medical helicopters at night and in adverse weather. This service will cover a very large area around Solon Springs and will be a lifesaving benefit to anyone in need of emergency medical help.

"Our future goal is to purchase more land and extend the runway to 5,000 feet; this will allow larger aircraft to land, and to promote future business development at the airport," Shupe said.

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