Officials at the Waynesville-St. Robert Regional Airport, also known as Forney Airfield, encouraged on- and off-post civilians to take full advantage of the hub’s several uses, and not be deterred due to its location on a military installation.
“Aviators think that they cannot fly into Fort Leonard Wood or bring their student pilots to Fort Leonard Wood to fly because the airspace is closed off to them,” said Bryan Rush, assistant airspace officer and air traffic controller.
He said although it is unusual for a military site, Forney Airfield serves as a joint-use airport for both military and civilian activities.
“The only thing that aviators have to do is make two-way radio communication with us, and they can come in,” he said. “Just like any other airport that they would go to.”
Rush said military-specific forms or licenses are not needed to use the airport.
“We have two current civilian instructor pilots operating out of the airport,” he said. “They’re open to anyone — civilian, military, whoever wants to fly — they’ll teach them how to fly.”
Jose Palasi, air traffic control tower chief, said having a staffed air traffic control tower distinguishes this airport from others around the area, as well.
“Basically, between here and St. Louis, Columbia and Springfield, we’re the only air traffic control.”
Rush explained why that’s important for training.
“One of the things that is very important for pilots is to learn how to talk to and interact with air traffic controllers. That is absolutely crucial,” he said. “Here, you have live air traffic controllers.”
Rush said civilians can rent hangars here, too.
“Either way you look at it, flying is an expensive habit,” he said. “You want to go to the place where your dollar can stretch the farthest.”
Rush and Palasi recognized that pilots’ maps may be unintentionally misleading them, as restricted airspace borders around the post are not always active.
“These are airspaces that the FAA has given the Army for things that are considered hazardous to regular people who aren’t participating,” Rush said. “(Contact) air traffic control and see if it’s active. Most of the time, it’s not.”
In addition to the services the airfield offers private pilots and those in training, civilians can purchase flights out of Fort Leonard Wood to St. Louis — Forney Airfield officials confirmed that the auxiliary parking lot across the street from the terminal is free for travelers.
“This is something that the government has decided,” Rush said. “They really want this to be a hub for the local region, and we’re open for business.”
Rick Vise, Security Operations Division chief, said there are a few steps civilians must follow if they want to get on post and use the airport.
“Anyone wishing to fly out of Fort Leonard Wood will need to have either a digital or paper copy of their ticket,” he said. “They will need to present that to the visitor center staff as well as valid picture ID such as a driver’s license.”
He added that visitor center staff will conduct a criminal background check, and upon an all-clear signal, they will give a pass which should be presented to the gate guards.