Airport to dedicate renovated event center

·5 min read

Jun. 24—The newly renovated The Flight Line Event Center at the Vermilion Regional Airport is in homage to the airport's aviation history and takes one back in time into the Britt Airways terminal.

The mid-century modern design includes vintage airplane photos and posters on the walls, departure signs of international and domestic cities, Britt Airways logo and map of destinations, a bar area, a neon light stating Metroliner Lounge, color changing fuselage windows on the wall, airport seating and other updates.

The vintage airline design was created by Hiliary Clapp with Home by Hiliary.

The former Cloud 9 Banquet Hall at the airport has been transformed into a modern but also historic site for corporate events, retirement parties, birthday parties, wedding showers, family reunions and other events.

An unveiling and ribbon cutting will be at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the airport, 22633 N. Bowman Ave. The ribbon-cutting ceremony will include a dedication to the Britt family. The Britt family owned and operated Britt Airways, a commercial airline service at the Vermilion Regional Airport until 1986.

Among those expected to attend the ribbon cutting is Vickie J. Miller, daughter of airline owners Bill and Marilyn Britt, who have passed away.

The ceremony will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. There will be refreshments and hors d'oeuvres.

Airport Manager Alexandra Gale said they're excited to show the public the renovated building, which was the original airport terminal.

"The Flight Line ties into more of an airport," Gale added about the new name.

Vercoa Air Service stared in 1956 and was named Britt Airlines upon incorporation in 1974. Britt Airways was incorporated in 1976.

Boardings exceed one million passengers in 1984. The airline was sold in 1986.

According to the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame, by the mid-1950s, Bill Britt became the FBO at Vermilion County Airport in Danville. The charter segment of his FBO grew as he filled in for Lake Central and Ozark Airlines with commuter flights. This led to the formation of Britt Airlines that grew to more than 1,000 employees and 47 turbo-prop and jet aircraft. Operating without any subsidies, Britt Airlines carried almost 1.3 million passengers a year and was the second busiest carrier at O'Hare.

It was airport board member Craig Davidson's idea to recognize Britt Airways being the community's air passenger flight company in the 1970s and 1980s. He suggested the Cloud 9 center/old terminal building see that era of decor and have period posters of Britt Airways on display. Outdoor improvements will include Edison lights.

The Flight Line renovations started in late 2019.

Gale said renovations included a custom kitchen remodel with new appliances, new paint and a new bathroom, with upgraded plumbing and which had been avocado green in color.

They've had a few rentals of the remodeled event center already, with birthday and graduation parties.

Gale said some families too look for a larger dinner gathering space, such as for Thanksgiving dinner, for a large family. The Flight Line can fit that need.

"What I'm hoping to see are company luncheons or company board meetings ...," she said.

She said they hope to attract weekday meetings, not just weekend events.

Rental costs are $250 for four hours, $350 for six hours or $500 for eight hours/all day.

The building includes a 24/7 pilot lounge area with vending machines and a bathroom.

The north end of the building still houses an office for the Illini Glider Club headquarters.

Other airport news

Gale, who became airport manager in February, said the airport is working on updating its website and looking at other events.

"I want to continue to be relevant to the community," she said.

Some people may not know how much usage the airport sees. For example, it's used by corporate traffic, such as for the recent Carle at the Riverfront ground breaking; and UPS and other deliveries.

"We rely on tax dollars," Gale said about operations.

Only a portion of Vermilion County taxpayers pay taxes to the airport.

Airport Board attorney Jerry Davis has filed a court petition due to local wind mill generators that should be taxed and aren't. The airport authority should be receiving those taxes and it's not happening, Gale said.

"For a lot of people it's $20," she said of county taxpayers who are taxed by the airport authority.

The taxes help with events like Balloons Over Vermilion and keeping the airport running, she said.

The airport board has continued discussions about windfarms and farmland in the county which isn't taxed, and about the possibility of getting a 1945 judgement changed regarding the airport authority's taxation to include more of the area.

Some other upcoming events at the airport could include: a ceremony for the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11, partnering with local emergency responders and others; Trunk or Treat with airplanes for Halloweens; fly in by Santa Claus; car shows; food truck events; and movies at the airport on an inflatable screen.

"I'm trying to create memories and stories," Gale said of free family events at the airport. Children can see airplanes up close and maybe develop an interest in becoming a pilot or working in aviation.

Gale said the structural integrity of the airport tower still needs to be determined if it would house a moved pilot lounge, museum and classroom space.

Gale said she truly believes the airport is "The Gateway to Danville," and this is the starting point for lot more things for the future.