The Tennessee Aeronautics Commission announced March 19 the selection of Cleveland Regional Jetport as the 2014 Airport of the Year the annual Tennessee Airports Conference in Murfreesboro.
Jetport Director of Operations Mark Fidler returned from the conference with the crystal trophy and framed certificate. He presented the award to the Cleveland Municipal Airport Authority Friday morning during its regular monthly meeting in the municipal building.The Tennessee Aeronautics Commission, based on nominations by Tennessee Aeronautics Division staff, presents the award at the annual conference.
The TAC is a five-member board appointed by the governor.According to the Tennessee Department of Transportation website, the aeronautics division is responsible for licensing 142 heliports and 74 public/general aviation airports. It oversees grants to improve and rehabilitate those facilities. In addition to maintaining one of the nation's best aviation systems, it also provides aircraft and related services for state government executives, staffing for the TennesseeAeronautics Commission, and numerous educational support programs.
Airport Authority Chairman Lou Patten was at the conference for the announcement. He said the award is the result of the hard labor of everyone involved.“I was surprised and delighted,” he said. “I think we won because of all the effort of city staff, board members, contractors, the fixed-base operator and everyone else who had a part in building the airport. We are especially thankful for Mayor Tom Rowland, City Council members and City Manager Janice Casteel, Brenda Lawson and Allan Jones for their foresight, funding, guidance and support.”
Mayor Rowland said statewide recognition of the airport reinforces what he has been saying for many years. “Cleveland is the best city in Tennessee and now we have the best airport in the State of Tennessee,” he said. “This is the culmination of a lot of work that really goes back 20 years when we first started searching for property to build an airport. Now, we just need to keep moving forward.”
CMAA Board Member LeRoy Rymer said the airport could not have been built if not for the work of city staff.Ronnie Fitzgerald, vice president of PDC Consultants, the design and engineering firm that oversaw construction of the $42 million airport that opened in January 2013 at 251 Dry Valley Road, said, “it means you are the top airport in the state and Cleveland is well deserving.”Fitzgerald said the award is based on all aspects of operation.“It’s based on management, appearance, services offered, level of professionalism,” he said. “This airport is happening really fast. The speed it is developing at — you’ve been open a little over a year now and you already have the terminal, a major hangar, several small corporate hangars, one large corporate hangar, 20 T-hangars. This is a pretty incredible pace you’ve been moving at as far as development. This Airport of the Year award is all encompassing.”
He said Cleveland Regional Jetport, Carroll County, Huntingdon; Beech River, Lexington/Parson; and John C. Tune, Nashville, are the only four general aviation airports built in the last 25 years. “I don’t think any of them achieved that award in that amount of time and some of them never have,” Fitzgerald said. “You don’t have anything to compare it to say it’s incredible you got the award so quickly. It is, but you don’t have anything to compare it to — now you do.”
In addition to the Cleveland having the best airport in the state, Fidler was recently elected to the Tennessee Aviation Association board of directors. Fidler has accumulated more than 10,000 hours of flight time for Braniff, FedEx and as a corporate pilot for Fortune 500 companies. During his 48 years, he managed airline dispatch offices for Northwest Airlink and managed the Fayette County Airport near Somerville for more than five years where he managed and guided renovations at that facility, which was named Most Improved Airport in 2010.