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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / A student pilot lands at Dallas Bay Skypark in Hixson on Tuesday. The airport's owner plans to close the airport after more than 60 years.

Dallas Bay Skypark, a private airport in Hixson that's open to the public and small aircraft, plans to permanently close later this year after nearly six decades of operation, an official says.

John Osterhage, president of airport owner Aviation Integrated Resources Inc., said in a memo to the renters of the more than 30 hangars at the facility off Crabtree Road that Dallas Bay likely will close in late summer or early fall.

"I'll be sad to see it go as a pilot," he said.

Osterhage said his group bought Dallas Bay in 2002 when the then-owner was going to sell it to a real estate developer.

He declined to say what Aviation Integrated plans to do with the 56-acre tract, adding that he "can't get into those details due to confidentiality. I can't comment on anything related to a potential sale."

For the planned closure, Osterhage blamed TDOT's Aviation Division and nearby homeowners who've refused to cut down tall trees near the one-runway airfield.

He said TDOT "has notified us that the trees on the approach end are a sufficient enough hazard to flight operations that they will revoke our airport operating license later this year."

Osterhage also said TDOT informed the Dallas Bay owner that it would no longer fund runway work such as repairs and repaving for private airports.

"This is a major change as twice the runway was repaired, sealed, painted by TDOT since 2002," he said. "The estimated cost to repair is many, many times our annual revenue."

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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / A plane returns up the runway after a successful landing at Dallas Bay Skypark on Tuesday. The airport's owner said the facility likely will close in late summer or early fall.

But TDOT said in response to questions that the airport's license expired at the end of 2020 and that, per a communication earlier this month, the owner isn't seeking to renew it.

"TDOT is not revoking the airport license," said TDOT spokeswoman Rae-Anne Bradley in an email.

TDOT also said airports such as Dallas Bay, which are privately owned but public use, are eligible for state funding for projects that add to the safety of the airport and assist in meeting state licensing requirements.

"The airport owner is responsible for maintenance of the facility," Bradley said. "This has been the department's policy since 2002."

However, Osterhage said he has a letter from TDOT "that specifically said they're revoking" the airport's license.

Concerning the runway, the owner said he was told by a TDOT employee that if the runway was "a bad enough safety issue, they'd come in and do something." Osterhage said he didn't want a chunk of asphalt to come loose and compromise safety.

The airport sells fuel and a separate business, Hixson Aviation, offers flight training and aircraft rental.

Mark Winton of Hixson Aviation said he received the memo from Aviation Integrated but didn't want to comment further.

With about 40 planes stationed at Dallas Bay, the airport is seen as a lower-cost alternative than renting hangars at Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport. Also, people entering the Chattanooga Airport property have to go through security badge training or be escorted.

In addition, for those learning to fly, a small airport such as Dallas Bay gives new pilots the opportunity to practice more take-offs and landings in an hour compared to a bigger facility.

Nearby, the Collegedale airport could be another alternative for plane owners in Hamilton County. Other small airports include those in Cleveland, Dayton and Jasper.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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