published Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

Crystal Air to service Cleveland's new jetport

Conceptual digital image of proposed terminal at Cleveland, Tenn.'s new jetport.
Conceptual digital image of proposed terminal at Cleveland, Tenn.'s new jetport.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- The Cleveland Municipal Airport Authority has decided to retain the services of Crystal Air for the city's new jetport, which is expected to be completed by the end of the month.

On Monday, the board voted 5-0 to create a hybrid operational command for the new jetport in which Crystal Air, which also operates Cleveland's Hardwick Airfield, will answer to Mark Fidler, the new airport's director of marketing and operations.

The board rejected an option to create a staff of three employees who would perform the daily operations that Crystal Air would handle.

Very few items differentiated the cost of the two management proposals, said Lynn DeVault, chairwoman of the Airport Authority. However, the use of fixed-base operator Crystal Air would make the initial launch of the airport much easier with a number of in-house services immediately available to the airfield, she said.

"There's some subjective things we need to think about," said DeVault. "If we do not choose [to use Crystal Air], we will not have a flight school, and will not immediately have on-site mechanical [service] ... and we will not have a charter service."

DeVault said Crystal Air's services would cost only $6,000 more than having the city hire its own staff.

In addition, the fixed-base operator keeps the city out of human resource matters, such as hiring, firing and benefits, said Taylor Newman, director of operations for Crystal Air.

Crystal Air also has experienced personnel it can use at the airport, which alleviates the need for the city to train field staff, Newman said.

Most importantly, Newman said, the agreement between Crystal Air and the authority will allow the airport to make more money on fuel sales.

The next move is to determine equipment purchases and fueling strategies, officials said.

Newman recommended the jetport make a deal with a fuel provider to get a low-cost lease of a truck that displays the fuel brand.

In other business, the authority discussed setting the jetport's grand opening for Jan. 25, but officials were unsure about when the airfield would be open for operations.

"That gives us time to have the fuel in place and to do a lot of planning," DeVault said. "I'd like to keep the big 'X' on the runway until we are really, really ready."

In conjunction with the jetport's grand opening, officials are trying to arrange for an auction of the first flight in and the first flight out of the new airfield.

The Airport Authority plans to establish a firm opening day for the jetport at its next meeting, scheduled for 9 a.m. Dec. 21 at the city municipal building.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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