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Manager Calls Municipal Airport "Macomb's Best Kept Secret"

TSPR's Emily Boyer
Airport Manager Lee Cobb pictured in front of the 10 seater charter plane, the largest of the fleet.

Most people visiting Macomb might choose to either drive a car or take an Amtrak  train into town. But there is a third option popular among some business executives and other professionals:  flying into Macomb.

The Macomb Municipal Airport is just north of town off of U.S. 67. It is an uncontrolled airport, which means pilots are able to take off and land whenever they like, although it does has a frequency so they can notify airport staff. The runaway is long enough to accommodate business jets. 

Lee Cobb has been Airport Manager for more than 30 years. He also owns Cobb Aviation Services, the private charter plan company that operates out of the airport. Cobb said it’s the airport’s main business with four charter planes and five pilots.  He said they get out almost daily.

He said the charter service operates mostly out of Macomb, but also regularly travels to other airports in the region to drop off and pick up clientele. He said they mostly bring business people to the area.

Credit TSPR's Emily Boyer
TSPR's Emily Boyer
The building housing the airport's terminal was built around five years ago. Cobb said for many travelers is their first impression the city.

Cobb said the airport was established to attract business prospects, making it an economic development tool.  He said it helped bring in the two largest manufacturers in Macomb.

“NTN Bower was responsible for insisting on an all-weather airport. They would not come here without that," Cobb said.

"Pella Windows, that was one of the criteria they had for picking Macomb. They would not even consider Macomb without an all-weather airport. It plays a big role in getting businesses to come to the area."  

But it’s not all business travel at the Macomb airport. Cobb said 20 to 30 planes pass through during an average week. Some pilots are visiting the area and others just stop to fuel up.

He said fuel sales are a main source of revenue for the airport.  The facility also charges a rental fee for hanger space, a fee paid by the charter service as well as the owners of the  27 other private planes stored in airport hangers.

Credit TSPR's Emily Boyer
TSPR's Emily Boyer
"Maintenance work is being performed on a 1979 Beechcraft in the Macomb Municipal Airport's maintenance shop. "You keep a car a lot longer than a car generally because they are maintained so well," Cobb said. "If you take care of them, they'll last for ever." He said most of the parts on this particular plane were new.

Cobb said the airport also does maintenance work on airplanes. Private planes have to be inspected yearly and commercial planes every 100 hours of airtime.  

The Macomb Municipal Airport was named Airport of the Year for 2017 by the  Illinois Department of Transportation. It’s the third time Macomb has won the award. It competes in the General Aviation category for airports with a runaway more than 5,000 feet.

Emily Boyer is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.