The Future Meets the Past at Ottumwa Regional Airport

Monday, November 11, 2019

Much of what is now the Ottumwa Regional Airport used to be a World War II naval base. As such, the main runway dates back to the early 1940s, and although that runway is being replaced and expanded, its history will stay intact.  

Runway 13-31 - the main runway - and its concrete dates back to the origin of the airport and at some point between then and now, asphalt was placed over the original concrete. The renovation project called for the removal of the asphalt and the concrete underneath it, but rather than disregard all of that material, the choice was made to recycle and re-use some of it. 

“We decided to crush the old concrete and use it as a sub-base for the new runway,” says Chris Cobler, airport manager. “There’s so much history here and it’s great to see that we’re not getting rid of it with this project.”

The runway expansion project is part of a $7 million reconstruction project that also includes new runway lighting. The airport received a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that paid for about 90% of the new runway. 

“The new runway will be a perfectly flat, 6,001-foot runway equipped to handle any sized aircraft,” says Cobler. “This definitely opens some new doors for the airport and allows for even more growth.” 

From Past to Present

The buildings on the airport’s property also date back to WWII and today are either owned by the city or leased to area businesses. Even the building that at one time housed the World’s Largest Swimming Pool (for underwater maneuvers) has been converted to a warehouse, although the floor was filled in years ago. 

And, Cobler says, there is room for additional growth. “We have about 500 acres of farmland surrounding the airport, and some of that land could be developed for industrial use” says Cobler. 

A shipping facility is another option. Keurig Dr. Pepper Snapple has both production and distribution buildings at the airport from which they produce most of brand-name and private label soda for the midwest. “We see more than 100 semi-loads of pop leave the airport every day,” Cobler says, going to locations such as Minneapolis, Kansas City and St. Louis. 

As for the runway renovation project? Cobler expects it to wrap up close to Thanksgiving - on time and on budget- and he is preparing for a grand opening event in the spring.

For further updates and for more information on the Ottumwa Regional Airport, please click here. 


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Ottumwa Economic Development Corporation 217 East Main Street Ottumwa, Iowa  52501
Phone 641-682-3465 Fax 641-682-3466