On March 6, a storm rolled through and produced 80 MPH straight line winds that caused severe damage to hangars and aircraft at the Executive Airport. Untangling the twisted mess is ongoing, and requires a cautious approach to avoid additional damage or personal injuries. Photo courtesy of Larry Peet

Rick Poppitz
Special to The Gardner News
On March 6, area storms produced 80 mph straight line winds that caused serious damage to hangars at the Executive Airport. The airport was shut down that night for about 12 hours while runways were cleared of debris.
Aaron Otto, executive director, updated the airport commission on the extent of the damage and repair efforts during the JCAC’s March 22 meeting.
Hangars on the west side took the brunt of the wind and suffered the greatest damage. Sheet metal was blown off, airplanes were tossed around, flipped over and entangled in building debris.
For the most part, debris stayed on airport grounds, but a few pieces did end up in nearby residential neighborhoods. A fence and tree line on the east side caught most of the debris.
“The thing that’s kept me going in this, is the fact that Executive Airport, by 2020, is going to be a new airport. It’s going to have a new runway, a new taxiway, four or five new T-hangars, repairs on a lot of others, and a new sewer system. We’re talking $10 or $15 million dollars in investments,” said Otto.
On any given day there may be numerous people in the hangars; Otto said, however, no one was there this night when the storm rolled through and no injuries occurred. The fire department staff was in the area and was the first to report the damage.
Damage occurred to buildings, as well as the aircraft and other items stored inside.
All the hangars were inspected for structural integrity following the storm. Some were sound enough to allow aircraft owners and/or insurance agents to enter and take photos of damaged property, and some were not.
Larry Peet, deputy director, shared numerous photos showing the severity of the damage. The difficulty of extracting aircraft from debris varies from plane to plane. Some extractions require a very cautious approach, as there is potential to cause further damage or injury to persons.
Multiple county departments have assisted in the ongoing repair efforts. Airport staff was thanked for putting in extra hours dealing with the storm damage.
The storm damage was unexpected and added challenges, but previously planned improvements, keep him optimistic about the airport’s future, Otto said.