Take-offs and landings at the Monett Regional Airport remained held at near-record levels through the summer as business related flights continue to soar and non-business flights drop to record lows.
According to records kept by city employees at the airport during business hours on weekdays, business flights from June through September totaled 1,983, a new record, besting the old high water mark of 1,947 from 2012.
Flights from Jack Henry and Associates and from EFCO Corporation planes totaled 384, an average of 96 flights a month, the largest number tallied at 116 in June. The average dropped from 114 from the first five months of the year, the largest being 122 in January.
The big increase came from business flights by companies flying into Monett. These totaled 1,599 for the four-month period, an average of 400 a month, though the 558 in June pushed up the tally. The previous highest count for summer months was 942 in 2012.
Over the years, Airport Superintendent Howard Frazier has recalibrated what he considers to be business flights. Flight instructor take-offs and landings now make up part of the business tally. The change brought about a reduction in what is considered flights for pleasure. Planes hangared at the airport have also moved from pleasure excursions to business.
Planes hangared at the Monett airport not used for business made 252 flights from June through September, up from 215 a year ago but down from 415 two years ago.
The big difference surfaced in planes from outside Monett engaged in non-business flights. Only 78 such flights were recorded over the four-month period, the lowest on record, down from 191 a year ago and 346 two years ago. Prior to Frazier changing his count, outside pleasure flights over the summer frequently tallied from the 1,000.
Pleasure flights for the summer totaled 330, down from 406 a year ago and 761 two years ago.
"That's the way its been trending," Frazier said. "There's not as much joy flying these days. The economy is not just as good."
Combining all types of flights, Frazier and his crew counted 2,313 take-offs and landings from June through September, up 75 from a year ago but down 153 from the 2014, the highest number since the city started keeping records in 2005.
Frazier regularly notes that his count does not reflect total activity at the airport. Many Jack Henry flights leave as early as 5 a.m. and may return after 8 p.m. Frazier has estimated the actual number may run double his count.
Frazier could not identify any specific trend that would have made flying two years ago more popular, though he identified fuel sales as an unpredictable factor.
"Our fuel can vary quite a bit between truckloads," Frazier said. "We're not going through 8,000 gallons as quickly as some airports. Hopefully we can get it when it the price is down. Fuel can fluctuate 40 to 50 cents per truckload. Sometimes with the corporate stuff, they're in business, they have to go, so it's pretty well out of their hands what they pay.
"Fuel can push pleasure flights. They look on the internet, and if they see a lower price, they'll fly there to buy. It's fluctuating more than it had been. If you get set where someone can beat you, they get the business."
Weather conditions and demand for crop dusting also significantly impact numbers at Monett's airport, Frazier said. Even scheduling a major air show in Osh Kosh, Wisc., can bring more planes through Monett.
"In an election year, people and businesses may be more cautious and watch what they're doing," Frazier said. "There are a lot of factors affecting our numbers."
Nonetheless, Frazier was pleased with his busy summer. He looked forward to the activity continuing through the end of the year, though he noted that weather conditions affecting visibility vary more as the seasons change.
"We don't have a schedule of business flights," Frazier said. "It's hard to say what's going to happen. As long as they're doing good, that means jobs are doing well. We're trying to keep everything up. If any hangers open, we try to keep them full and encourage traffic to come in. That's about all we can do."