Terry Hart, president of the Chattanooga Airport, said at the August board meeting that it has been a good summer for the airport with enplanements in June increasing 12½ percent above last year and seven percent in July. For the first seven months of the year, enplanements are up 12 ½ percent with an increase of 2,500 arrivals and departures year-to-date over 2018. However, a leveling off of traffic is expected after August, he said. The airlines have already planned fewer average daily seats leaving Chattanooga through January, but he believes that in the end there will be a 10 percent increase overall compared to last year.
To keep pace with the increased use, creation of a 20-year master plan was developed in 2017, considering existing condition assessments of the airfield, the terminal, ground transportation, fuel storage cargo, parking, rental cars and hangar capacity.
Projects were identified to address the infrastructure needs. The first to be addressed was parking.
A new economy parking lot for 525 cars has now been completed. This was built so cars would not be displaced during construction of a new parking deck that will have 1,300 spaces. The parking deck is projected to cost $25 million. Mr. Hart received permission from the board to put out a request-for-proposal for institutions that would be interested in financing it. The next step will be to put out an RFP for design and build. Construction is expected to start in the later part of spring 2020.
While the deck is under construction, design for a terminal expansion will be done with work beginning on it in early 2021. This expansion will accommodate a third lane dedicated for TSA pre check-ins, which is expected to help business customers.
Parts of the master plan regarding the airfield have already been completed or are underway. An expansion of the east ramp was started in January. Gravel is down where asphalt will be put in September. The work should be finished by the first of December. There is 45,000 square feet of additional hangar space planned for the site.
Design for hangar 20 will be ready to present to the board in October with construction beginning in November. It should be finished by June or July next year, adding 25,000 square feet of hangar space and office areas.
On Monday, work was started to re-do airfield lighting on the primary runway, including replacing all wiring. This project was approved at the June board meeting for the cost of $91,600. A change was approved by the board that will add $50,508 in order to convert airfield signs from incandescent to LED lighting.
The FAA has completed replacing an antenna landing system that has been in place for 20 years.
With increased landings rubber had built up on the runway that obscured markings. The build-up is being removed with an environmentally friendly chemical, said Mr. Hart. This will be an annual project.
A temporary repair is now being made to the airport dome’s roof, but a bid will be going out for replacing the copper that was damaged recently when a micro burst hit the airport. Thanks to quick action by Mr. Hart, there has been limited impact, said Chairman of the Board Dan Jacobson.
The airport is partnering with the Chattanooga Department of Transportation to revitalize Sheperd Road from the bridge over Highway 153 to the fly-over bridge leading to the airport. Curbs and gutters will be built as well as a sidewalk on one side of the road and landscaping with trees and vegetation that will improve the approach to the airport.
The Chattanooga Airport has received approval from the FAA to begin a Passenger Facility Charge program (PFC). There will now be a $4.50 fee on each ticket per segment. The airlines will collect the fee that will come back to the airport. This charge will continue until $4.6 million is collected. It will be used for projects such as buying three new jet bridges, buying snow removal equipment, a sweeper truck and making improvements to security.
Body cameras for Airport police have been bought. Procedures for their use are now being written.
Airport employees in partnership with some airport vendors, adopted a classroom at Brainerd High School and adapted it into an institute of aviation. Materials, time and resources were also donated to help make other upgrades at the school. In the classroom, cubicles were added to hold three flight simulators that were purchased by Hamilton County through a state grant.
"The two great months of June and July at the airport," said Airport Board Chairman Dan Jacobson, "shows a strong affirmation that we’ve got the right team and partners in place, plus the passengers who support us."