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Planned West Lafayette development could bring commercial flights back to Purdue

"All the right mechanisms are in place."

Posted: Oct 17, 2019 8:19 AM
Updated: Oct 17, 2019 8:52 AM

TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) — More development seems to be coming to Greater Lafayette, but there is one piece that leaders say our community lacks. It's something you probably would like the option of having.

Purdue University has the second-busiest airport in the state, second only to Indianapolis International. It holds that ranking without having commercial flights.

"We've got one of the greatest universities in the world, we've got a very strong workforce, we have a very positive and safe community," said West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis. "The one thing that we do lack, is immediate connectivity to other airports that connect us with the world."

Several commercial airlines served for decades at Purdue. However given it's proximity to Indianapolis, airlines started pulling out. The last left in the mid-2000s. Now, the conversation about bringing it back is starting again.

"We are all looking forward to that day, and I do think that day is going to come," said Purdue University President Mitch Daniels. "To a large extent, I think it depends on our success in the Innovation District."

Planned housing and business development is booming in Purdue's Discovery West District near Airport Road and U.S. 231.

"I don't think we are too far away. The Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, the Saab facility, Rolls Royce, a residential facility to be called 'The Provenance,'" listed Daniels on the development.

"You look at the folks that are coming here to manage these places, they're not from West Lafayette, they're not from Greater Lafayette or Purdue University," said Dennis. "They're from all around the country and all around the world."

Dennis said the airlines they've reached out to all understand there is a demand in Greater Lafayette. He said local government is pulling for it, but they have to be good stewards of tax payer dollars.

"If there isn't a full airplane, is it proper for us to use tax dollars to fill in that cost? I don't think it is," Dennis said. "All the right mechanisms are in place. It just takes an investor or a corporation or a business plan that's going to make sure things work in the best way."

"We are getting close, I think, to the sufficient mass where it will make sense for somebody to start bringing planes in here," said Daniels.

The Purdue Airport declined to comment.

Purdue extended the airport's runway and has the infrastructure in place. Dennis said because of that, the process could move quickly when an airline decides to invest.

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