The head of a national aviation group is sharply critical of plans by Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport officials to build a new general aviation terminal and hangars.
James Coyne, president of the National Air Transportation Association, questioned the need for $10 million in new facilities, saying he's worried it's a "foolish and wasteful expenditure."
"It's unusual to try to spend a lot of money to build a facility with no promise there is any need for it," he said, questioning the due diligence on the project by airport officials.
The Alexandria, Va.-based association is a public policy group that bills itself as the voice of aviation business. It says it has 2,000 member companies that own, operate and service aircraft.
Mike Landguth, Chattanooga airport president, said he disagrees with Coyne's objections, noting customers have said they want more competition at Lovell Field.
He said an analysis of general aviation was done as part of the airport's recent master planning process. It was presented to the public and he didn't receive any negative comments about potential expansion, the airport official said.
Landguth also cited the new auto assembly plant by Volkswagen and other big business projects in the region as helping drive future general aviation growth.
Last week, the Airport Authority agreed to moved ahead with plans to build the new terminal and hangar space.
The panel approved a $3.6 million bid by Morgan Construction and Paris Construction to raise a 9,000-square-foot terminal on the west side of the airport's main runway along with 12,000 square feet in hangar space. A fuel farm and more hangar space also are planned.
Landguth said the state will pay 90 percent of the project's cost while the airport will pick up the rest from its operations budget.
Coyne said in a letter to Airport Authority Chairman Dan Jacobson and Mayor Ron Littlefield that NATA usually supports infrastructure development. But he said he is concerned the terminal project could prove "disastrous for the airport, existing service providers, airport users and the taxpayers...."
He said there was a decision to build the new facility before finding and securing an operator to run it.
On Wednesday, the airport ran a legal ad in the Chattanooga Times Free Press requesting proposals for a fixed base operator related to the expansion.
Tac Air is the airport's only FBO, which supplies fuel and other services at Lovell Field, and runs existing general aviation facilities.
Tac Air chief executive Greg Arnold was National Air Transportation Association chairman from 2003-04.
Tac Air's marketing director, David Edwards, criticized the Lovell Field project, saying that while the airport anticipates more traffic, the master plan projections are based on pre-recession data.
"If you look at the current traffic flow ... it has continued to drop off," he said.
Edwards also cited competition from a new airport in Cleveland, Tenn., that's under development.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or (423) 757-6318.