• 95 percent of construction waste recycled
• Almost 4,000 solar panels installed just south of the terminal
• Landscaping comprised of indigenous plants requiring no water
Source: Chattanooga Airport
Chattanooga Airport's green credentials were cited by the FAA's top administrator Wednesday, saying it's out front in terms of environmentally friendly airports nationwide.
Michael Huerta, the Federal Aviation Administration's interim chief, said the airport is the first nationally to garner a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum award.
The airport at Lovell Field earned the highest LEED designation for its new general aviation terminal and solar farm.
"It's on the cutting edge," said Huerta.
Dan Jacobson, the Airport Authority's chairman, said the terminal is the world's first to achieve the U.S. Green Building Council badge.
"We set out to create an environmentally sound strategy for building development here at the airport," he said.
The new $5 million terminal and hangar, which handle corporate aircraft, opened over the summer and is run by Memphis-based Wilson Air.
About $3 million in federal stimulus money was used to pave an aircraft parking area, and the FAA put about $4 million into the nearby solar farm.
Judith Webb, the Green Building Council's senior vice president, said Chattanooga is "one of the leading lights" in terms of LEED. She was in the city late last year when Volkswagen's assembly plant drew LEED Platinum status -- the first for any auto plant worldwide.
Terry Hart, the airport's interim CEO, said the LEED badge is "our most significant achievement to date."
"Platinum is the epitome of the top," he said.
Still, the new terminal on the west side of the airport's main runway hasn't been without controversy.
Officials for Tac Air, which has long run its own general aviation terminal at the airport, have questioned spending by the Airport Authority for the startup of a competitor which they say isn't needed.
Meanwhile, Huerta said in an interview that recent approval of a four-year FAA reauthorization bill by Congress and President Obama, after years of piecemeal funding, will help midsize airports such as Chattanooga's. The FAA Modernization and Reform Act will provide more than $63 billion in airport funding over the next four years
Huerta, whom officials said is the first FAA chief to visit the airport, added that the funding measure will provide more certainly in airports executing long-term capital investment plans.
He also talked about the recent merging of big airlines, such as Delta Airlines and Northwest Air Lines and Continental and United. The combinations have led to some cuts in airline service in Chattanooga and other cities.
Huerta said airline consolidations achieve efficiencies but open up opportunities for new entrants.
"On the one hand, you see some consolidation of some of the larger so-called legacy carriers. But you see other carriers who have been quite aggressive in starting up new service," he said.
Huerta assumed the No. 1 spot at the FAA in December. The appointment came following the resignation of Randy Babbitt, who quit after his arrest on charges of drunken driving.