published Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Airport plans $10 million in facilities

Audio clip

Ron Littlefield

When Volkswagen AG’s chairman and other top leaders of the automaker flew into Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport last week, they arrived on three corporate aircraft.

“They were some of the largest corporate jets I’ve seen at the airport,” said Mayor Ron Littlefield, with one the size of a typical 150-seat MD-80, the largest plane that commercial airlines fly into the city. “There will be more of that in the future.”

To better service VW and other businesses, city and airport officials on Wednesday unveiled plans to build $10 million in facilities.

“It’s an important building block in our economic future,” Littlefield said.

Most of the facilities will serve general aviation flights and pilots, but a new fueling operation will appeal to the airlines by lowering their costs, said Mike Landguth, the airport’s president.

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    Contrbuted Photo 2010 Chattanooga airport rendering

He said the airport also plans to seek proposals for another fixed-base operator to run the new site.

Tac Air is the airport’s existing fixed-base operator, which supplies fuel and hangar space.

Terminal planned

“Pilots have told us that they would not refuel here because of pricing, and I have been asked by the airlines and corporate pilots to create a more competitive environment,” Landguth said.

The airport plans to build a new 9,000-square-foot general aviation terminal and office complex on eight acres on the west side of the main runway, opposite existing facilities.

Also, a 12,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art hangar facility will go up nearby along with the fueling center, according to the airport.

The state will pay 90 percent of the cost while the airport will pay for the rest out of its operations budget, Landguth said.

Pearlis Johnson of the Federal Aviation Administration said $3 million in stimulus money was used to pave an aircraft parking area at the site.

Littlefield said no city general tax money will go into the project.

He said the new facilities will help the city prepare for growth due to VW’s auto assembly plant, its suppliers, Wacker’s planned new manufacturing plant in Bradley County and other business.

“We expect growth,” Littlefield said.

Work on the new facilities could start this fall and be finished in summer 2011, Landguth said.

Airport forecast

Airport officials said they expect operations by aircraft at Lovell Field to increase from 78,700 in 2007 to 93,000 in 2027.

Dan Jacobson, the Airport Authority’s chairman, called the planned facilities the most important since the airline passenger terminal was redone in 1992.

“This answers a need expressed loudly and clearly by our customers,” he said. “Competition in any industry is healthy.”

But this isn’t the first time airport officials have talked about another fixed-base operator and added facilities on the west side.

Three years ago the airport entertained proposals and later backed away, saying the two companies which made offers weren’t responsive.

One of the companies then was existing operator Tac Air. At that time, Tac Air officials criticized the interest in a second FBO, saying it could create two unhealthy operations.

Tac Air officials Wednesday declined comment.

Brian Davis, Allegiant Air’s director of airport planning, said any step that lowers its fuel costs in a market boosts the strength of its routes and improves the chances of new service.

“Fuel is our largest expense,” he said about the low-fare carrier that flies to Orlando and Tampa-St. Petersburg from Chattanooga.

Tom Snow, chief executive of the T.J. Snow Co. Inc. in Chattanooga and a frequent general aviation user, said he has had no problems with Tac Air, but that competition is “always good.”

New hangar space is especially attractive, he said. In addition, he’d like to see a self-serve fuel pump at the airport.

“We don’t mind doing some of the work on our own to save a dollar,” he said.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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captainrt said...

Well, well, what else is Chattanooga going to do for VW? That airport has needed this for over twentyfive years and it took Volkswagen to get it done. I just have a feeling that when this honeymoon is over, people are going to begin to wake up. I am glad to see people getting work, don't get me wrong but I have talked to a few people that were hired and they are already looking for something else. As one put it: "I became a victim of the VW hype and it consumed me, I wish I had stayed where I was." I also know of many qualified people who were led around on a leash for up to six months spending hours being tested only to be told it was over; many went bankrupt from travel exspenses, time off from work to spend eight hours at VW testing sites. It is so sad to hear what they went through. I am not one of the disgruntled people that did not get hired, I am retired. I just want to encourage people to not let this company consume them, keep your options open. It is, after all, just another company complete with all the problems. For those that do get hired I wish them well and hope it is everything you dreamed it would be and more.

July 29, 2010 at 11:02 a.m.
greenerob said...

Bankrupt from travel expenses?

July 29, 2010 at 2:34 p.m.
ordinaryguy said...

Well we all know that if VW comes to a sudden stop eveyone invovled included Dan Jacobson will suffocate

July 29, 2010 at 2:47 p.m.
captainrt said...

In respone to greenerob and travel expenses, I meant to include the fact that several people have come from as far away as Michigan to attend these tests. The one I am familiar with had spent thousands on air travel/hotel. I know of a couple of others with the same story. It was a gamble on their part but sad just the same. Sorry for not being more specific.

July 29, 2010 at 4:12 p.m.
tifosi said...

"many went bankrupt from travel exspenses, time off from work to spend eight hours at VW testing sites."

Smells like a fabrication of the imagination. If you can't afford to take the risk, then don't answer the call. Anyone that went bankrupt because of this is a fool.

July 29, 2010 at 7:19 p.m.
dt4c said...

Good grief the stupidity of some people amazes me. How in the world could anyone be against VW coming to the city? Penny wise pound foolish IYAM.

July 29, 2010 at 9:50 p.m.
camo705 said...

VW should have competive salaries compared to other auto manuf in Tn. After working for major auto manu for 10 years, i can understand why people are looking for other jobs.

July 30, 2010 at 12:25 p.m.
greenerob said...

captainrt, don't be foolish. I highly doubt that people came all the way from the Michigan for a line job here in Chattanooga based on what those jobs pay.

Besides, if they were testing people from Michigan for the line jobs I am sure that you would have complained about that already.

July 30, 2010 at 12:33 p.m.
lonerstoner said...

Just for you know it alls ! Re: tofosi & dt4c especaly Bend an ear and read on , I applied for 3 different possisions back 9 months ago. in the meanwhile I have worked for a temp service at the plant installing robots, working with VW (German) employes average work week 65 hrs. I did get the call one afternoon , V W human resource admin went through through the process of this first stage . ( bassicly work all day in bluejens t-shirt and sneakers , Hmmmm ever herd of OSHA . I guess V W hasnt either! Work consist of electro fusing chasses, seeing if ones can handle the work . Now people , Americans seem to be missled as V W tweeks there stratiges. Im sure there are thousands of simular situations all over the country. Thank you and good lick in your search of the American dream. Navy Vet Rob please excuse my spelling as I am no english major

August 4, 2010 at 3:37 p.m.
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