DOT awards Rickenbacker $15 million for cargo development

Last week, the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) announced the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s intent to award Rickenbacker International Airport (LCK) $15 million in grants. The grants will support LCK’s infrastructure improvement as it aims to position itself as a regional hub for cargo. Rickenbacker airport authorities said that the funding will support LCK’s projected tenfold increase in cargo activity over the next 20 years. 

The $15 million will be used to fund the airport’s plans to upgrade its runway. Total upgrades to the airport’s runways are estimated to cost $33.5 million. The costs cover relocating and replacing runway lighting, navigational aids and directional signs, as well as widening blast pads and improving taxiway configurations, according to LCK’s update to its 20 year Master Plan released earlier this year. LCK’s final report of its Master Plan has not yet been released. 

The money awarded to LCK is part of the DOT and FAA’s larger plans to award nearly $800 million in infrastructure grants to airports across the U.S. Last week, Chicago Rockford International Airport (RFD) was also announced as a grant recipient, and plans to use its funds for the construction of its airport apron project. 

In 2018, LCK reported its volumes were up 17.6% for the entire year, bringing the airport’s total cargo handle for 2018 to almost 136,500 tonnes. This volume however, is still a far cry from the volumes of express-oriented airports in the region, such as Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky (CVG) and Louisville (SDF) – which reported 1.2 million tonnes and 5.7 million tonnes, respectively, in throughput for 2018. 

Although the scale of LCK’s operations are not on par with North American integrator hubs, LCK airport authorities have worked hard over the past two years to attract international carriers and grow general cargo operations at the airport. The general trend in small and medium-sized airports gaining attention from air cargo industry stakeholders as alternatives to major congested airports lacking the flexibility and capacity necessary for these companies’ growing operations could also benefit LCK moving forward.  

Most recently, LCK welcomed AirBridgeCargo’s increase in frequencies at its airport. LCK also currently hosts operations from Cargolux, Cathay Pacific Cargo, Emirates SkyCargo and Etihad Cargo.

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