31 Dec 2020 501 LIFE Visionaries: Jack Bell, Director of Conway Regional Airport
By Stefanie Brazile
Jack Bell has served as director of the Conway Regional Airport at Cantrell Field for almost a year. Previously, he was the city’s chief of staff for 12 years.
The airport opened in 2014 and is situated on a 431-acre site in southwest Conway known as Lollie Bottoms. It is a full-service general aviation airport with almost 70 based aircraft. General Aviation Airports are the largest group of airports in the U.S. According to the FAA: A GAA is a public-use airport that does not have scheduled service or has scheduled service with less than 2,500 passenger boardings each year.
The greatest strength of the operation is the people who work there, according to Bell. “A well-qualified staff is number one,” he said. “Also, we offer excellent facilities in a safe environment.”
Bell has a vision for growth in 2021, which includes these goals:
Complete the new bank of T-hangars.
Attract a maintenance operation for the airport.
Attract additional corporate customers.
The leader is looking to the future and would like to accomplish these goals in the next five years:
Extend runway to 6000 feet.
Build an additional community hangar.
Build additional T-hangars.
“Funding is always a challenge,” Bell said. “We are a self-sustaining entity and receive no general fund revenue, but flooding has been a bit of an issue in the past couple of years.”
The community can support the airport and Bell would like to see more people involved. “Buy an airplane and learn to fly, or just come out for a visit,” he said. “We are very proud of our facilities and staff. We would also like for the public to know that the airport is an important economic engine for Conway and Faulkner County.”
Air travel is not new to Conway. According to Bell, the original airport opened in 1928. It was managed by Mr. Dennis F. Cantrell from 1945-86, which explains the name Cantrell Field. About the time he finished four decades of leadership, the city began working to construct a new airport. Local, state and federal efforts paid off, funding was secured and the airport was completed in 2014.