The airport opened Jan. 25 at a cost of $42 million with only a terminal building and community hangar alongside the 5,500-foot runway.
Since then, Dr. Tim Viser and Stephen Wright have built and are occupying their 50-by-40-square-foot and 100-by-80-square-foot hangars, respectively. Corporate hangars for Jones Airways (240x120) and Voice of Evangelism (80x80) are under construction. Ground leases for three 50x40 hangars and one measuring 100x50 have been signed. Two slabs have been poured for 20 T-hangars and the structural steel arrived Tuesday.
The T-hangars should be up and opened by mid-December. They are the last impediment to closing Hardwick Field on Jan. 1.
CRJ General Manager Mark Fidler said Tuesday, “We are standing firm. We are absolutely committed to closing Hardwick Field Dec. 31. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. That airport is going to close Dec. 31, if not before.”
Fidler said the T-hangars are about three months behind schedule, but no one could foresee it would take the manufacturer 10 to 18 weeks to fill an order or it would take the government an unusually long time to process the purchase orders.
“We had hoped to have the T-hangars completed by now,” he said. “But, the 10- to 18-week delivery span is what really threw a wrench in the machinery and got us behind.”
Hardwick could close sooner if the T-hangars are up and ready and the 10 remaining planes could be relocated to the jetport.
“As soon as we have the opportunity to accommodate our customers at Hardwick and provide them with a place to relocate, then we’ll close Hardwick,” he said.
The taxiway and runway will be extended 500 feet to the north in spring 2014. The Federal Aviation Administration and Tennessee Department of Transportation Aviation Division limited the length of the runway because 5,500 feet is adequate to handle 85 percent of business aircraft flying today.
“But, two of the main operators we have, Whirlpool and Merck both operate jets that fit outside,” Fidler said. “They can technically use it, but it’s tight so, we’re adding a safety margin.”
He said the larger planes use the airport, but they have to keep weight down, and pilots don’t like to keep their fuel low.
As the physical plant continues to grow, so does the business. Two or three planes parked on the apron are waiting for maintenance and one is tied down at the jetport because the airport in Dayton is going through some upgrades.
“We’re going to have to install more tiedowns before the end of the year, if things keep moving the way they are,” he said.
The FAA is updating the instrument approach data that allows planes to land in low-visibility conditions and on schedule for publication. The local weather station reporting equipment is being turned over to the FAA and National Weather Service thanks to PDC Consultants, a sponsor that made that communications link possible.
“Pilots destined for this airport can receive weather updates en route from air traffic controllers,” he said.