The Chattanooga Airport will be growing again. At the meeting of the airport board on Friday afternoon, the proposal to expand the west side development was approved. The new FBO (fixed base operator) owned by the Airport Authority and managed by Wilson Air, opened in August 2011. The plan approved today will add a 20,000-square-foot hangar, 13,200 additional square feet of office space and a vehicle parking lot to that business that provides ground services to private and corporate aircraft.
The board took action based on the master plan for the airport and because of feedback from the public, said Terry Hart, airport president. Increasing the infrastructure was also deemed to be needed by a third party study done by Airport Business Solutions. The results of the facility opening last year, according to Mr. Hart, has been more competitive services, lower fuel prices, reduced rental rates for hangar space and quality service.
The airport expected a financial loss the first years, he said, but the existing hangar space has been at capacity and there is a demand for more. Before the expansion to the west side, the only FBO was a monopoly, officials said. Board member Jim Hall said that while TAC Air has provided excellent service, fuel costs were an issue and the goal of the board has been to maintain a competitive position for the users.
The contract to build the new facility was awarded to Morgan-Paris Construction; the same firm that built phase one of the project. The firm will hire 33 regional subcontractors, the board was told. The construction cost for the hangar, offices and parking lot is $4,731,000. Engineering services for the plan will be provided by Allen and Hoshall at a cost of $339,000. The entire development will be funded through state allocation at 90 percent with CMAA contributing 10 percent. Once it is begun, construction is expected to take 240 days to complete.
After the vote, board member Michael Mallen said for the record, that the board's unanimous decision to develop the west side of the airport was not driven by current activity, but by future needs.
In other business, Mr. Hart reported to the board that from 2003-2011, nationally there has been an increase of 34 percent in international traffic. This increase has been reflected at the Chattanooga Airport as well, more specifically to Germany because of the Volkswagen plant and Wacker operating in the area. The airport has also seen increased activity in flights to and from Mexico because of auto suppliers. He said demands have shifted to provide global access by the hub system utilized by the Chattanooga Airport.
Mr. Hart also informed the commissioners that a local company, ERMC-II, has been given the bid to install equipment to provide power and air to planes waiting at gates. This is part of the airport’s “green initiative”. This power and air will not require a parked plane to use its own energy. Instead, it will be provided by the airport. The nearly $2 million investment is a budgeted item which will be 90 percent federally funded with a 10-percent contribution by CMAA.
This has been a good month for the parking lots at the airport having had full capacity, he said, and cargo is up. In October, Allegiant re-started two weekly flights each to Tampa/St. Petersburg and Orlando after a month of not providing the routes. Delta has put in place six weekly departures using DC-9s with a 125-passenger capacity which replaces smaller planes. This will allow first class service on flights to connector airports which is considered important for international traffic.
Actions that required board approval included the purchase of 20 hand-held radios with the supporting hardware and software to replace those being used, which are 15 years old. The lowest bid and the one approved came from Motorola Solutions for $50,000. These will help the airport to maintain effective communications with emergency fire and police services in Chattanooga.
The board also approved the purchase of a 2013 Ford Explorer at the cost of $31,401 for the take-home use of Mr. Hart. The car this new one replaces will be used by Maurice Songy, the new vice president of operations who will join the staff Monday.
Mountain City Landscaping, the current landscaper of the airport, was approved to continue the service for the next two years. Year one, the company will be paid $35,172. Year two, the cost will decrease to $34,644.