published Friday, August 12th, 2011

New Lovell Field terminal is 'front door' to Chattanooga

The new Wilson Air Center, located on the west side of the runway at the Chattanooga Municipal Airport, is the new fixed-base operator.
The new Wilson Air Center, located on the west side of the runway at the Chattanooga Municipal Airport, is the new fixed-base operator.
Photo by John Rawlston.
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Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield said Thursday that when he has flown into other cities to recruit business, their airports have made better impressions -- and that worried him.

Now, the mayor said, Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport's new $5 million general aviation terminal and hangar helps give Lovell Field what's needed to better compete.

"We're in the big leagues," he said at the new terminal on the west side of the main runway that will service corporate aircraft and other general aviation business.

In officially taking the wraps off the terminal, Airport Authority Chairman Dan Jacobson called the facilities a new business front door for the city.

"This will be the first and last impression of the city and region," he said.

Wilson Air Center President Bob Wilson, whose Memphis-based company will run the airport-owned facility, said the company will work to make a positive and professional impression.

"This does make the difference," Wilson said about the 9,000-square-foot terminal.

Wilson's operation will compete with existing fixed-base operator Tac Air, which has criticized the building of the new terminal.

Tac Air spokesman David Edwards said the fundamentals concerning the terminal remain the same as a year ago when the project was announced.

  • photo
    Dan Jacobson, chairman of the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport Authority, speaks at opening ceremonies at the new Wilson Air Center on Thursday. Located on the west side of the runway at the Chattanooga Municipal Airport, Wilson Air Center is the airport authority's own fixed base operator.
    Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

"We feel it's unnecessary and a waste of taxpayer dollars," he said. The airport used a grant from the state to pay for 90 percent of the project cost. The airport picked up the remainder.

Businessman Jim Berry, who heads Chattanooga-based Republic Parking System, was announced as the new hangar's first tenant and called Wilson Air good managers of its locations in other cities. Wilson also operates at airports in Houston, Memphis and Charlotte, N.C.

"As for competition, I know all about it," Berry said. "It does keep you on your toes."

Airport officials said that opening up competition at the airport was a key for the new terminal's construction and will help lower aviation fuel prices.

Wilson said it's estimated that since work started on the new terminal last year, users have saved about $1 million at the airport on fuel.

Edwards of Tac Air, however, said fuel prices have nothing to do with Wilson Air and everything to do with the fluctuation in wholesale market prices.

  • photo
    Bob Wilson, president of Wilson Air Centers, speaks during opening ceremonies Thursday at the new Wilson Air Center in Chattanooga. Located on the west side of the runway at the Chattanooga Municipal Airport, Wilson Air Center is the airport authority's own fixed base operator.
    Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

"It's strictly an issue of the market," he said. "How does an FBO [fixed base operator] that's nonoperational have an impact on the fuel market?"

Mike Landguth, the airport's president, said planners foresee general aviation growth in the Chattanooga market in both aircraft based here and passing through. Officials cited the entry into the market of companies such as Volkswagen, Wacker and Amazon.

Landguth also mentioned Wilson Air's high industry marks for service. Earlier this week, he said, a customer was looking for a certain kind of beer, and a Wilson employee went to 11 different locations until finding it.

Airport Authority member Mike Mallen called the new terminal "best in class." But, he said, he believes there's enough business in Chattanooga for two general aviation businesses serving people flying private planes and jets.

Tom Snow, another Authority member, said competition is "always good."

  • photo
    The new Wilson Air Center, located on the west side of the runway at the Chattanooga Municipal Airport, is the airport authority's own fixed base operator.
    Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

"We're in FBOs all over the country," he said. "This is a first-class facility."

The terminal is the first phase of $10 million in planned new general aviation facilities at the airport. The second phase includes more hangar space.

While one hangar went up next to the terminal, Landguth said there's space for 60,000 square feet of added hangars when demand drives construction later.

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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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sambuhls said...

If a mechanical problem is discovered shortly before the time of takeoff, it will still take a mechanic an hour and a half to get there. There's much more to an airport than the way it looks. Flying out of Chattanooga is as maddening as it's always been.

August 12, 2011 at 8:46 a.m.

Suggest TFP take a good long look into whether or not TAC Air - formerly known as Krystal Aviation - ever actually paid for (and if so, when and how much) the property they have occupied at Lovell Field all these years...

August 12, 2011 at 9:11 a.m.
qwerty said...

The Tea Party should be all over this boondoggle at the airport,spending millions of dollars of taxpayer money to house private jets. Why didn't the city and the airport recruit private dollars to do this sort of thing? Probably because the private sector didn't see this as a good investment. This situation, at best, is a great example of the government wasting our tax dollars - yet again, and at worst, is cronyism run amuck.

August 12, 2011 at 10:16 a.m.
qwerty said...

Hey sambuhls, here's a positive: while you wait endlessly for your plane to be fixed, the new FBO can run out and get you your favorite beer!

August 12, 2011 at 10:51 a.m.
dedwards said...

In response to Mr. Van Buren's comments, TAC Air is a tenant of the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport and pays rent plus a percentage of income to the airport. In addition, any improvements made to the facilities leased by TAC Air are paid for in full by TAC Air and are turned over to the airport at the end of the lease. TAC Air has made multiple attempts over the past few years to make more improvements at the airport using private investment - not taxpayers' dollars - to better serve our customers. Yet, the airport has denied TAC Air from building a self-serve fuel pump and additional hangar space. Instead, the airport has utilized tax payers' money to build facilities and subsidize the operation of them from the airport's operations budget. In addition, the airport's new FBO does not meet the airport's own minimum standards, so the airport authority is now in the process of re-writing the standards to the level the airport and Wilson Air are capable of delivering.

The bottom line is, TAC Air (a private company) is being forced to compete with a government owned and subsidized operation.

August 12, 2011 at 10:53 a.m.
nucanuck said...

This project reminds me a bit of the publicly funded Chattanoogan Hotel that did real damage to private sector restaurants and hotels while still not generating enough revenue to adequately service its debt.

TAC Air will have their customers siphoned off by a money losing, tax-payer subsidized facility, but Wilson will do just fine.

How long can TAC survive against an advantaged competitor?

August 12, 2011 at 12:18 p.m.
Czech123 said...

In officially taking the wraps off the terminal, Airport Authority Chairman Dan Jacobson called the facilities a new business front door for the city.

"This will be the first and last impression of the city and region," he said

It may be the first impression of the city and region, but if it's also the last impression of the city and region, then the city of Chattanooga has problems. Hopefully the city and region will make a lasting positive impression on those the city is trying to attract. I certainly don't believe a potential corporation will make its decision to locate here, and add jobs, based on a new building at the airport. We got the Volkswagen plant, Wacker, Amazon, and others before the new digs, and I'm sure we'll continue to get new companies here. Not because of a shiny new building, but because Chattanooga and the region have a lot to offer.

August 12, 2011 at 1:30 p.m.
crimshaw said...

Mike Langduth is a post turtle manager and knows nothing of the business side of aviation. They use tax dollars and try an say it ain't so. Wait till they start another disaster of a hotel where the old Target use to be using tax dollars. These bed bugs that have moved in and will not be able to compete on the same level. To be honest and not asking, I've heard several pilot's state they would not use a Wilson Air facility and would fly further for service. Wilson is there for name only, the CMAA is in control here and their reputation I'm sure will follow. We just have to wait till next elections for a fair an honest Mayor to appoint someone with reason and couth to run the CMAA, not a post turtle.

August 12, 2011 at 6:11 p.m.
NoMyth said...

Republic Parking is the biggest scam in the region. They hold Chattanooga hostage with outrageous parking prices not comparable to any small city in the country. They earn money hand over first for slabs of asphalt that were paid off decades ago. A competitor or the city should build more garages....and undercut Republic. Chattanoogans should shun Republic for their blatant price gouging and greed. They are so wealthy, now they can rent an airport!

August 12, 2011 at 7:57 p.m.
funnyman said...

I agree with Muhammad, I would like to know who paid to build the facilities that TAC operates at this time. As for Mr Edwards statement "any improvements made to the facilities leased by TAC Air are paid for in full by TAC Air and are turned over to the airport at the end of the lease" I believe this is normal business practice for all airports. How long has TAC/Krystal been in the leasing the property? How much longer before it becomes airport property. I know a standard lease is 20 to 25 years and from the look of the buildings they appear to be much older than that. I wonder if TAC/Krystal is paying fair market value for their lease or if there is a sweet deal because it has been spread over so many years. I don't know the answers but am just asking. It is easy for anyone to tell one side of the story and I don't know either. I will end by saying that if I were the only provider of a service in a city I would not want anyone else coming to town to provide the same. I find it odd that you can hardly find a Home Depot without a Lowe's close however both say it improves their business when they are this way instead of across town from one another. TAC provide a better service for a competitive price and you will keep the business. If not you will lose it. I wish both of you the best of luck and hope both are successful.

August 12, 2011 at 7:57 p.m.
7Seventeen said...

The TFP should also look into how many CMAA employees have been laid off and how many have had their hours cut over the past few years so that Mike Landguth can get his guaranteed CEO salary and his yearly six-figure bonuses. In 2009 Mr. Landguth took a $40,000 bonus and signed a new employment contract on the same day that two mid-level employees lost their jobs due to "organizational restructuring". Landguth uses every one of these taxpayer funded projects as justification to keep himself well paid and Dan Jacobsen and the rest of the CMAA board are happy to oblige him.

August 12, 2011 at 11:36 p.m.
crimshaw said...

What's also a funny here is, this so called businessman, (aka- first tenant) was one of the one's responsible to approve the funding for the new terminal on the opposite of the field to service private jets only. Wonder what his first tenant rent will be? This new facility built will only service four medium sized private jets, at the most. They are foolish men with our tax dollars.
Beware, they are in full bloom, it's spring time for the CMAA an Langduth has the water can full of your tax dollars, nuff said

August 13, 2011 at 8:47 p.m.
funnyman said...

Crimshaw, I think your facts may be a little off. I believe Mr. Berry only recently obtained the position which you refer too. When the funding was approved by the State of TN nearly 2 years ago he was not part of that group. I would bet you that his rent will be the same as anyone else that wants to rent the space for an aircraft. Someone do the research and post what TAC charges for T-hangar space vs similar space at nearby airports. You also refer to the hangar space being used to only house private jets, I dont know of too many public jets on any airfield.

August 13, 2011 at 10:08 p.m.
qwerty said...

I guess if the State of TN and the CMAA subsidized my hangar rent with taxpayer money for my private jet, I'd be quick to go over there too.

August 14, 2011 at 1:28 p.m.
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