$70 million fly-in community planned for Chattanooga area’s Dallas Bay Skypark

Staff Photo / A pilot lands a plane at Dallas Bay Skypark in 2021 in Chattanooga. The small airport later closed, but a new plan calls for building a private fly-in community at the site.

A Chattanooga businessman plans to buy the shuttered Dallas Bay Skypark, reopen the air strip and build about 80 residential units along with hangars so pilots can park their planes near their homes.

In a proposed $70 million project, the aim is to turn the Hixson site into a small, private fly-in community, FreightWaves Chief Executive Craig Fuller said in a phone interview Tuesday.

"It's for people who have small piston, propeller aircraft," Fuller said about the proposed development off Crabtree Road.

Townhouses and detached cottage homes likely will start at about $700,000 each, he said. A hangar for planes can be built along with a residence, Fuller said. He said plans are to construct community hangars, too.

"Typically, these could be a second home or a retirement home for folks," said the freight market data and analytics company CEO, who also is a pilot.

There are no plans to expand the runway or accept jet planes, nor reopen a flight school that operated at Dallas Bay, Fuller said.

The small airport shut down in 2021 after nearly 60 years of service as a public general aviation facility.

John Osterhage, president of Aviation Integrated Resources Inc., in 2021 informed renters of the more than 30 hangars at the facility about the closure at the time, citing maintenance and other issues.

"I'll be sad to see it go as a pilot," Osterhage said. He said in a phone interview then that his group bought Dallas Bay in 2002, when the prior owner was going to sell it to a real estate developer.

About 40 planes had been stationed at Dallas Bay, and the airport was seen as a lower-cost alternative than renting hangars at Chattanooga Airport.

Next month, Fuller plans to seek a rezoning of the 56.2-acre tract from the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission to accommodate the new proposal.

Fuller, who has a contract for the Hixson parcel, said the airport is in "pretty bad shape. It needs a lot of work and maintenance."

Plans filed with the Regional Planning Agency show future renovation of existing buildings for aviation support, office and conference space and a cafe. Refurbishing or replacement of existing hangars could amount to 29,000 square feet of space, plans show.

An existing building could be repurposed for amenities, including possible retail shops, a small format general store, gym or clubhouse.

Fuller said air traffic will be restricted at the facility and basically for use by people living there. State approval isn't needed for the project because the airport will be for private use, the businessman said.

The price of homes at the site will be a significant increase over existing residences in that area of Hixson, Fuller said.

"It should ideally increase the value of properties around it," he said, adding the planned development wouldn't overwhelm the public schools.

Fuller said there are other small distressed airports similar to Dallas Bay Skypark around the country, and he's eyeing a concept of franchising and creating "a club concept."

About a year ago, Fuller unveiled a $1 billion fly-in resort and residential community in nearby Bledsoe County, Tennessee. That development is to hold 800 homes, many with hangars, when built out over 20 years, he said.

Fuller said Tuesday about 170 lots are presold in Bledsoe County, and he's working with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation over water mitigation issues.

"As we get through that, we'll start construction," he said.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

  photo  Staff Photo by Olivia Ross / Craig Fuller, CEO and founder of FreightWaves, is pictured May 10.