Copper-topped no more? Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport officials may not replace copper roof on damaged dome

Copper-topped no more? Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport officials may not replace copper roof on damaged dome

August 20th, 2019 by Mike Pare in Breaking News

Damage to the Chattanooga Airport roof is seen on Tuesday, July 30, 2019, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

“I'm not certain we have to go back to copper.”
Chattanooga Airport CEO Terry Hart

Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport officials may not replace the copper on the top of the facility's signature dome after it was torn off in a severe storm late last month.

"I'm not certain it will be copper," said airport CEO Terry Hart about a replacement material. "I'm not certain we have to go back to copper."

The airport's current passenger terminal, featuring the dome, opened in 1992. Shortly after opening, some airline pilots complained about the sun's reflection off the dome and airport officials dulled its surface.

Hart, who briefed the Airport Authority about repairs on Monday, said a crew from locally based J.D. Helton Roofing Co. was to use a material to temporarily cover nearly a third of the dome that was damaged after "a micro-burst" of wind and rain.

Damage to the Chattanooga Airport roof is seen on Tuesday, July 30, 2019, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Damage to the Chattanooga Airport roof is seen...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

"We don't want water to continue to infiltrate the building," he said.

Hart said an insurance adjuster and engineers already have looked at the damaged dome, and the hope is to go out to bid for repairs soon.

But, he said, if the decision is made to not reuse copper, the airport could consider a material "that may have the color of copper but not the reflectivity that copper does."

In addition, Hart said, it's the adjuster's recommendation that the entire copper surface of the dome be replaced. The airport chief said he doesn't know a cost estimate yet.

The original idea behind the dome was to hearken back to Chattanooga's railroad history to both local residents and to visitors who are entering a key gateway to the Scenic City.

Keith Sanford, the Tennessee Aquarium president who is chairman of the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau, said if the new surface appears like copper, he thinks that's fine.

Damage to the Chattanooga Airport roof is seen on Tuesday, July 30, 2019, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Damage to the Chattanooga Airport roof is seen...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

"I've seen copper lookalikes and they do a good job," he said.

Hart said the main factor is that no one was hurt during the micro-burst, which is described as an intense, small-scale downdraft produced by a thunderstorm or rain shower.

Blake Poole, the airport's vice president of air service and economic development, recalled he was sitting at Lovell Field's offices watching the storm when he noticed parts of the roof on the dome coming off.

"It was really raining hard. Then we started seeing debris," he said, adding that airport officials could tell it had come from the dome because of the shiny copper color.

Crews from J.D. Helton, a roofing company that Hart said originally installed the copper, were later summoned to put on a temporary patch as airport officials scrambled to find buckets to collect rainwater dripping into the terminal near its front entrance.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.