DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport
In 1948, the City of DeKalb purchased for one dollar a large piece of land that has turned out to be possibly one of its best investments ever. The purchase was for the DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport, which was built in World War II and was used by the U.S. Navy to test pilotless drones that were then shipped and re-assembled in the Pacific.
The war ended that program, but it signaled the beginning of a successful and vibrant future for the airport.
“When the war was over, the Navy didn’t want the airport anymore. It was a deal the city couldn’t refuse,” said Tom Cleveland, airport manager.
The airport has grown by leaps and bounds over the years and the city and surrounding area including Sycamore has benefitted. The airport now has two runways. Some of its assets are better than those at larger airports including a 100-foot-wide runway that was extended in 2014 to 7,025 feet. Its smaller runway is 75 feet wide and 4,200 feet long.
“We have a longer runway than Midway Airport,” Cleveland said. “All of the corporate planes love it because they can leave full of fuel and full of people.”
The airport is a busy place, boasting between 25,000 and 30,000 take-offs and landings a year. It is a full-service, all-weather facility, which means it is
open 24 hours a day. It also features GPS approaches to all runways.
The last time a study of the airport’s economic impact was done was in 2011 when it was estimated that it contributes $10.7 million a year to the local economy.
“It’s a force and an economic engine,” Cleveland said. “Any company that is looking at DeKalb County for their business flies into this airport. The big thing these companies want is accessibility.”
The airport provides a wide variety of services to businesses including aircraft fueling, cargo handling, de-icing and a conference room with Wi-Fi. The airport plays an important role in welcoming potential businesses to the county.
“We’re the gateway to DeKalb County. When they fly in, we’re the first thing they are going to see,” Cleveland said.
In recognition of its importance in helping businesses decide whether DeKalb County is a place they want to be, the airport strives to ensure the needs of those businesses are accommodated, down to automobile transport from the airport and enjoying a hot cup of hot coffee.
“If they need cars, we can rent them. If they need catering, we can do that. If they need coffee, or de-icing or fuel, we have it,” Cleveland said.
The airport has three maintenance facilities and serves as a base for one turbo-prop aircraft, four twin-engine aircraft and 80 single-engine aircraft. It has two privately-owned corporate hangars, 16 privately-owned corporate condo hangars and 51-city-owned hangars.
In addition to its focus on serving the needs of businesses, the airport is a hub for recreational fliers who can learn or improve their flying skills. One business at the airport, Fly America, is a Federal Aviation Administration Part 61 approved flight school whose instructors have more than 20,000 hours of flight time.
The airport also plays a role in getting young people excited about flying. It is the site for an aviation program that covers aeronautics, the power of flight and new technologies. The education consortium is a combined effort of Kishwaukee College and local school districts joining together to promote a program of hands-on career and technical education programs.
The aviation class offers both classroom and simulator instruction in an effort to prepare students for the FAA Private Pilot written exam. Students learn about aerodynamics, FAA regulations, GPS navigation, the use of flight computers, weather, radio navigation, flight instrumentation and performance and limitation of the air traffic control environment.
“They’re training pilots on simulators. A lot of kids come out for that,” Cleveland said.
As exciting as the airport’s last 70 years have been, the future looks just as bright.
“We’ve just gotten busier and busier,” said Cleveland who would like to see a strategic plan completed for the facility to target what the airport can be in the future. He envisions an airport with more hangars and with facilities and services for entrepreneurs who are starting new businesses and want to be in DeKalb County.