Cleveland, Tenn., Jetport prepares for its first flights

Cleveland, Tenn., Jetport prepares for its first flights

December 22nd, 2012 by Paul Leach in Local Regional News

Taylor Newman, director of operations at Crystal Air, a charter flight service, stands near one of the company's planes at the Collegedale airport.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Cleveland's Municipal Airport Authority expects the city's new airport quickly to assume operational status and receive its first flights before the end of January.

On Friday, officials reviewed the remaining hurdles to be cleared before Cleveland air traffic activity transitions from Hardwick Field off North Lee Highway to the Cleveland Regional Jetport on Dry Valley Road.

"Between the earthworks, concrete and electrical work, we got a sort of dance on the field," said Ron Fitzgerald of PDC Consultants, the general contractor handling the jetport's construction.

The most critical task at hand was the electrical work, said Fitzgerald, who estimated the taxi lights and the rotary beam should be in order by early January. At that time, the airstrip markings also should be painted, he said.

The only real challenge facing the airfield is a cosmetic one, said Fitzgerald, who said some areas do not yet have growing grass.

The terminal, which is designed to resemble an upscale East Tennessee chalet, also needs some minor work before it can service flights and guests, said Mark Fidler, director of marketing and operations for the new airport.

He said communication lines have been installed but the terminal has not received computers and phones.

The lobby of the 8,000-square-foot terminal recently received some private funding through Bank of Cleveland, which donated $75,000 toward its construction, said Lou Patten, vice chairman of the Municipal Airport Authority. About $1.5 million of the facility's cost will be handled through private donations; the city and state each contributed $350,000 for the terminal's construction.

The board also discussed the jetport's grand opening and its functional opening.

The grand opening is scheduled for Jan. 25, with an invitation-only dedication between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. An open house to the general public is planned between 2 and 5 p.m.

Fidler said the first operational date will be dependent upon the establishment of fuel stores. Storage construction likely will set that date to Jan. 18 or later, he said.

Fueling issues are a key concern for Hardwick Field, as well, said Taylor Newman, director of operations for Crystal Air, which provides operational services for the old airport.

In an effort to avoid having excess fuel on hand when the jetport becomes operational, no more refills will be made to Hardwick Field's depleting fuel levels, Newman said.

Airport officials plan to grapple with ideas on how best to auction off the first flight in and the first flight out of the Jetport. While final details are not determined, the airport board agreed that an online auction would be the best way to handle that.