TAC Air: Chattanooga Airport neglecting maintenance

TAC Air: Chattanooga Airport neglecting maintenance

December 18th, 2012 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

The landing strip and runway of the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Pam McAllister, Tac Air's general manager

Pam McAllister, Tac Air's general manager

A long-simmering dispute between the Chattanooga Airport and a business operating at Lovell Field boiled over Monday before the airport authority board.

A TAC Air official charged that airport officials are so concerned about challenging her company's business that they are neglecting maintenance at the facility.

"I think the airport is getting away from the fundamentals of airport operations," said Pam McAllister, the company's general manager in Chattanooga.

She said grass hasn't been cut, airport aprons aren't being swept and public bathroom doors and fixtures are broken.

"That's what the public sees when they fly from Chattanooga Airport," McAllister said.

However, airport officials said they're meeting regulatory requirements, and Lovell Field has the staff it needs to keep up the airport.

"We cut our grass. We push our snow. We change our light bulbs," said Airport Chief Executive Terry Hart.

Dan Jacobson, the Airport Authority chairman, said he's disappointed the TAC Air official isn't happy.

"They're a valuable partner that provides a valuable service at the airport," he said.

TAC Air, which provides fuel and maintenance for private airplanes at the airport, has been locked in a dispute with the airport since 2010. That's when Chattanooga Airport officials unveiled plans to build up to $10 million in facilities for corporate tenants and personal aircraft.

Airport officials said the facilities were needed because of complaints about TAC Air. But TAC Air claimed that Lovell Field officials were trying to shut down its business and using taxpayer money to do so.

McAllister said Monday the airport "has so much money to pay for everything else," but not on those things that are aimed at pleasing customers.

She also said that airport officials are intentionally excluding TAC Air from business and social events at the airport, even as the airport pursues its clients.

Hart said he has no intention of excluding anyone.

McAllister added that TAC Air continues to service 90 percent of the general aviation customers at the airport despite the airport's new operation, which is run under contract by Wilson Air.

She also denied that fuel prices are cheaper at the airport due to competition. McAllister said that prices have dropped because of market conditions.

The Airport Authority is projecting a loss of more than $1.1 million over the first two years of operation for its general aviation center.

The first year's loss of $655,000 was more than twice the original forecast for the facility.

Earlier this year, the airport agreed to move ahead with building even more hangar space.