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Regional Airport restaurant earns top Illinois award

The High Flyers Grille, a still-new operation at St. Louis Regional Airport in East Alton, won Illinois airport restaurant of the year in ceremonies this week.

The restaurant took home the “Five Prop Award” for fine dining as one of seven awards given during the Illinois Department of Transportation’s Illinois Aviation Conference, held in Collinsville on Wednesday.

The event recognized airports for their accomplishments throughout the year, outstanding partnership with the state and commitment to customer satisfaction.

The restaurant opened on the Regional Airport grounds last year. Operator Paul Ventimiglia was specifically cited.

Each year, senior staff from IDOT’s Division of Aeronautics convenes to determine which airports should receive special recognition as “Airport of the Year.” The criteria for the award are based on cooperation and coordination with the Division of Aeronautics by airport management and their staff, the facility’s safety record, maintenance of the facility and the promotion of seminars and aviation events.

The division recognizes airports in the following seven categories:

• Primary Airports
Airports with annual enplanements of 10,000 or more passengers.

• Reliever Airports
Airports primarily designed to serve general and corporate aviation in large metropolitan areas, such as Chicago and St. Louis.

• General Aviation Airports – Category A
Airports that accommodate aircraft needing more than 5,000 feet of runway.

• General Aviation Airports – Category B
Airports important to the aviation system, serving aircraft requiring 5,000 or less feet of runway.

• Private – Open to the Public Airports
Airports that are privately owned and don’t rely on federal or state funds to operate. These airports have to meet the same safety requirements as publicly owned airports.

• Heliports
All categories including: Public and Private Use Heliports, Hospital Heliports, and Restricted Landing Area Heliports.

This year’s awards recipients also included:

• General Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport (Peoria) – “Primary Airport of the Year”

• Lewis University Airport (Romeoville) – “Reliever of the Year”

• Vermilion Regional Airport (Danville) – “General Aviation – Category ‘A’ Airport of the Year”

• Benton Municipal Airport (Benton) – “General Aviation – Category ‘B’ Airport of the Year”

• Galt Field (Greenwood) – “Private – Open to the Public Airport of the Year”

• Blessing Hospital (Quincy) – “Heliport of the Year”

The Illinois State Aviation System is one of the largest in the nation, comprised of more than 870 individual landing facilities. Illinois is home to everything from O’Hare International Airport, to municipal general aviation airports, to private grass strips in farmers’ backyards. IDOT’s Division of Aeronautics assists with the creation, improvement and continued operations of both private and public airports through financial assistance to public airports, inspection and technical oversight. The division also provides aviation safety and education programs to pilots, aircraft owners, mechanics and industry professionals. According to a 2012 Statewide Aviation Economic Impact Study, aviation contributes nearly $41 billion annually to the Illinois economy.

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