Acadiana Regional Airport leaders break ground for new passenger terminal, with flights possible by fall _lowres

Rendering provided by the Iberia Parish Airport Authority -- Pictured is a rendering of a planned passenger terminal at the Acadiana Regional Airport in New Iberia.

The first commercial passenger flights out of the Acadiana Regional Airport in New Iberia could be lifting off by fall.

Iberia Parish officials broke ground Thursday on a new 1,200-square-foot passenger terminal, a key component in a plan to offer round-trip flights to George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston for oil and gas business trips.

Airport Director F. Jason Devillier said the hope is to serve the roughly 300 oil and gas companies along the U.S. 90 corridor between New Iberia and Lafayette looking for a cheaper alternative to next-day tickets at the larger Lafayette Regional Airport a few miles north on U.S. 90.

“It’s just another option to get back and forth to Houston,” Devillier said.

He said the goal is to run 10 to 12 flights per week on 50-passenger jets or 30-passenger prop planes.

Plunging oil prices in recent months have likely dampened the market for such flights in the short term, but Devillier said the airport is confident in its long-range strategy.

“It’s kind of slow, but we are moving forward with the terminal,” Devillier said.

“When oil and gas does bounce back, we’ll be ready.”

The new $800,000 terminal is expected to be finished by November.

The 1,200-square-foot facility is phase one of a larger terminal project.

The first phase is being built next to the airport’s fire station . Devillier said the airport is seeking funding to build an updated fire station and plans to renovate the old fire station for an additional 3,000 feet of terminal space.

The Acadiana Regional Airport was initially built to serve the military, first as an Army facility in the 1940s and later operating as a Navy facility.

Military operations ceased there in the 1960s, and the federal government deeded the airport to Iberia Parish government in 1969.

The airport serves as a base operations for Bristow, a large helicopter transport company, and is the home of AvEx, a company that paints aircraft for several commercial and cargo carriers.

South Louisiana Community College recently announced plans to offer helicopter pilot training as the first step in creating a new International School of Aviation Excellence at a facility next to the airport.

The new terminal will be named in honor of Air Force Brig. Gen. Wiltz P. Segura, who was born and raised in New Iberia and garnered a long list of honors in a military career that spanned three decades.