While still coming out from under the impact of the pandemic, the Chattanooga Airport continues its “long legacy of service and providing customers with what they need,” said Vice Chairman of the Airport Board of Directors Dan Jacobson, at the September board meeting. National airline predictions show just a gradual increase of airport usage throughout the country until 2025 when the number is predicted to be 111 percent of the pre-pandemic numbers. But the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport is expanding the terminal along with making multiple improvements and additions to taxiways and hangars and will be prepared for the future.
Operational statistics for the airport in August show that year-to-date enplanements are up 25 percent through the first eight months of the year, and are projected to reach 425,000 for the year, up from 377,000 in 2021, said Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport President and CEO Terry Hart. A slowdown is being seen now, however, with the number of seats going down due to the pilot shortage which has resulted in the airlines scheduling fewer flights. But bookings locally increased in September, said Mr. Hart, with last week being the highest since March 2020. He said it is encouraging that operations have been staying above where they were in 2021. Cargo is also up this year through August. Mr. Hart noted that in the industry overall this year, the carriers, American, Delta and United, have dropped all service in 59 cities. The majority of those are regional markets like Chattanooga.
Meanwhile, an expansion that began three months ago is underway at the Chattanooga Airport. The groundworks, which includes site preparation, and building foundations and columns, is in process now and will be followed with stormwater drainage lines being put into place. The first steel beam was put up last Monday. Another active project is the installation of security cameras in all parking areas. Delays in getting equipment caused by the supply chain problems are causing a slowdown of the work. The Chattanooga Airport received $5 million from this year’s federal infrastructure bill which can be used for this terminal expansion, said Mr. Hart. This is the only airport in the state of Tennessee that received money.
Allen & Hoshall has been chosen as the architects to design and engineer four of the infrastructure projects. Vice President of Operations Jack McAfee received approval at the Monday meeting to move forward with all four budgeted projects. These include $70,200 for the final design of a taxiway connector for the West Side development adding taxiways and hangars on the last undeveloped areas at the airport at the cost of $131,400. This is for general aviation use. Other projects are the final design of another site where more hangars will be built at the cost of $126,100, and another taxiway for $69,800. The demolition of an old runway that will fully remove all the old paved surfaces, wiring and lighting will be done for $998,276. That area will then be graded and drainage systems added and it will be planted with grass.
Mr. Jacobson said he is encouraged to see the progress being made at the Airport especially with all the chaos and confusion with air travel on a global scale. Enplanements are up, expansion of the terminal is on schedule and in budget and the new screening system is moving along as planned. And he recognized the successes and growth at Wilson Air Center, the fixed base operator that provides general aviation services for private aircraft.