Work begins on Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport terminal

Work begins on Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport terminal

November 11th, 2010 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

Staff Photo by Laura-Chase McGehee/Chattanooga Times Free Press Tac Air supervisor Josh Lee refuels a private Citation Jet (CJ1) at the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport. Lee has been with Tac Air for 6 and a half years. Tac Air and airport officials disagree over the need for new general aviation facilities and a new fixed base operator.

Staff Photo by Laura-Chase McGehee/Chattanooga Times Free Press Tac...

As builders start work on a $3.6 million general aviation terminal at Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport, bids by companies seeking to run the facility are due Friday.

Work at the terminal, part of the biggest building project at the airport in nearly two decades, is to be in "full swing" this week, said Jeff Morgan, president of Morgan Construction Co.

Morgan is raising the 9,000-square-foot terminal along with Paris Construction and said it should be finished by late summer 2011.

The terminal is the first phase of $10 million in planned facilities, which include a fuel farm and hangar space, on the west side of the main runway at the airport.

Meanwhile, bids by companies seeking to operate the new facilities are due Friday, said Christina Siebold, an airport spokeswoman. She said a consulting firm hired by the airport will review the bids, conduct interviews and make a recommendation to officials.

"By the end of the year, we should have chosen someone," Siebold said.

She expects multiple bidders, saying airport officials have received questions about the project from a number of fixed base operators. FBOs typically provide fuel, hangar space and other services for general aviation aircraft, which doesn't include the big commercial airlines.


David Edwards of existing airport FBO Tac Air would not say if the company will submit a bid.

But he continued to question whether there's enough general aviation traffic at Lovell Field to support the new facilities and two FBOs.

Edwards said Tac Air recently exited Greenville Downtown Airport in Greenville, S.C., where there were two FBOs, because there wasn't enough business for both companies.

"We recently went through a market consolidation at a city similar in size and demographics [to Chattanooga]," he said.

Edwards said the Greenville-Spartanburg area also has a German assembly plant in automaker BMW.

Chattanooga airport officials have cited Volkswagen's local auto plant and other businesses in the region as a reason for the new general aviation facilities. Airport officials also said competition will bolster the marketplace.

Siebold said the Greenville airport is strictly general aviation. She said it only pumped 825,000 gallons of aviation fuel in the last year while the Chattanooga airport averages 3 million gallons annually for general aviation purposes.

Siebold said the aviation environment and demand are "very different at these two airports. Developing a second FBO in Chattanooga is a reflection of the regional market and the demands of our consumers."

Airport officials said the state will pay for 90 percent of the project's cost while the airport will pick up the rest from its operations budget.