Pilots who use Marion City Airport will soon have the option to get aviation fuel any time they want with the installation of a card reader payment system.
“It’s a step in the right direction to make the airport more user friendly,” Mayor Todd Heitschmidt said. “It makes it much easier for pilots to come in and without anybody being there to refuel their planes.”
The system will be paid for by a $25,000 grant from Kansas Department of Transportation.
Airport board member and pilot Lyle Leppke said he considers 24-hr. fuel availability when he looks at flight plans and destinations, and believes other pilots will take advantage of this feature at Marion.
“If you stop and want to fill up with fuel, if there’s a phone number you’re supposed to call and you’re going to wait for an hour for somebody to show up, that’s inconvenient,” he said.
Marion’s airport is unique among smaller Kansas airports because of its multiple runways, city administrator Roger Holter said. Three turf runways supplement the north-south asphalt runway, giving small aircraft pilots landing option not available at other facilities.
“We offer more options for pilots landing in windy conditions than any other small airport in Kansas,” Holter said. “If they’re faced with rapidly changing conditions, and this time of year we go from north winds to west winds just like that, it gives pilots greater safety to land at our airport.”
Holter said a recent visitor to the airport landed there because of electrical problems, and was surprised to discover the airport had a flight center and fuel available.
Flight schools in Wichita, Salina, and Manhattan often use Marion for training flights, particularly for practicing touch-and-go landings, Holter said. The airport is becoming recognized in the small aircraft community as a good refueling point on longer trips, such as those headed to the world’s largest annual aircraft fly-in in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Those varied uses give the community greater exposure, and could help to promote economic development, Holter said.
“This just reinforces the need for the greater aviation community to get services here, and helps us with continued expansion efforts,” he said. “It gives us more exposure.”
Heitschmidt said facility improvements could help to bring in casual fliers.
“There are folks that love to fly, and folks that love small towns, quaint towns like Marion,” he said. “Why not pick Marion airport, as opposed to Newton or Salina, if it fits into their flight plan?”