Galveston's Scholes International Airport set to expand, increase island's revenue

September 28, 2011 4:01:01 AM PDT
Scholes International Airport is gearing up for a historic expansion that could make Galveston a major industrial hub, and the increased traffic is expected to impact the island and help its economy soar.

Helicopter traffic is about to double at the airport as a result of PHI, a helicopter company that is expanding its base. It's seen as an important step for future economic development on the island's West End.

Tyler Leslie remembers when he was a little boy and Scholes had commercial flights. He says it was noisy then, so he's not particularly bothered at the prospect of more flights being added now.

"I'm not worried about the noise. More traffic, more revenue" Leslie said.

Scholes Field is considered a strategic hub for the offshore oil and gas industry. An estimated 500 people pass through there each week headed to rigs in the Gulf. PHI is the largest carrier of manpower at Scholes. PHI will use an additional three acres, as well as add four corporate-sized hangars to house large, jet-powered civilian helicopters. Parking for offshore workers will nearly double.

From the air traffic control tower you can see the massive size of Scholes, about 1,200 city-owned acres. Scholes uses about 800 acres, which is enough buffer zone says the airport manager to keep noise levels to a minimum.

"One of the buffer zones you see is of course the water, out to the south of us and of course also to the north you see the buffer zones, but also you see the hotels, Schlitterbahn, the racquet course, Moody Gardens, the baseball fields," Scholes International Airport General Manager Hud Hopkins said.

Some see the new developments a step toward greener pastures on the west end.

"There is an investor confidence that Galveston is positioned strategically, logistically for continued growth in the western Gulf of Mexico," said Jeff Sjostrom with the Galveston Economy Development Partnership.

But not everyone is convinced. George Letsos is all for economic development, as long as its not too noisy.

"Not as long as they fly over us, over our homes, I'm not too excited. I'm excited about money to come in and create more jobs, possibly," he said.

Most of the copter traffic takes place during the early morning hours, but there will be sporadic flights throughout the day. It's hoped that PHI's expansion will have trickle-down effect on the economy in the West End.


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