Jetport takes No. 8 spot among year’s ‘Top 10’
by DAVID DAVIS, Managing Editor
Dec 21, 2012 | 2214 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cleveland Regional Jetport nears completion as seen in this side view from the taxiway in this Dec. 12 file photo. The Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce plans on hosting an informal morning coffee in the terminal building on Jan. 8. The grand opening is scheduled Jan. 25. Banner photos, DAVID DAVIS
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Cleveland Regional Jetport finished in the Top 10 stories of 2012 because whether it was needed or not and like it or not, the new airport is finished to the point it can now open — and that puts an end to a 40-year search for a replacement of Hardwick Field.

The No. 8 story for 2012 will continue into 2013. The Cleveland Municipal Airport Authority will celebrate the grand opening at 11 a.m. on Jan. 25. There are hangars yet to build and money to be raised to pay for the terminal building, and Hardwick Field must be sold.

Who will use the airport and how many planes will locate at the new facility, operation costs, fuel sales and wetlands mitigation are among the questions awaiting answers that will come with time.

But many questions were answered in 2012. The first big answer came in March when a Kentucky firm was announced as the low bidder for the third and final construction phase of Cleveland Regional Jetport.

Airport authority members awarded Hinkle Contracting Co. of Paris, Ky., the contract in the amount of $7.055 million. The third phase consisted of paving the runway, taxiway and apron. The scope of work included the 5,500-foot by 100-foot runway, a full parallel taxiway 35 feet in width and an apron area 317 feet by 982 feet wide. The pavement consists of approximately 122,000 cubic yards of concrete and 32,000 tons of crushed aggregate for the base material.

Hinkle’s bid was 11.2 percent under the engineer’s estimate of $7,943,408. AJAX Paving, with offices in Troy, Mich., and Nokomis, Fla., was the second-lowest bidder at $7.748 million, 2.5 percent under the engineer’s estimate. Wright Brothers Construction Co., Charleston, the local firm that built the first two phases, submitted the third lowest bid, $7.878 million, which came in at .8 percent under estimate.

Since the final phase was $1.349 million more than the contracted grant amount with the Tennessee Department of Transportation Aeronautics Division, airport authority members were granted a contract amendment that increased the state’s share to $6.349 million and the local share to $705,490.

In April, the best-cost estimate for the new airport was about $37.78 million by the time it opened and $42.68 million by the time it is completely built with hangars. At opening, the federal participation will equal $19 million, and the state’s share is estimated at $11.73 million. The city and private share will be $6.01 million.

As of Dec. 5, the total cost, including the terminal building, was $42.32 million. The city’s share was $5.943 million. It is the largest asset of the city and ranks in the top 10 in county investments including the recent industrial expansions. Also in April, J&J Construction was awarded the contract to build the terminal building. The Chattanooga firm bid $2.412 million to construct the 8,000-square-foot building terminal building.

The job was divided into three categories: site preparation, security, and the terminal building.

Site preparation and security were funded through grants. The terminal building, which came in at slightly less than $1.9 million, was funded by a 50-50 matching grant between the state and city up to $700,000. The airport authority is responsible for raising about $1.2 million. The board contracted Bill Allen to help raise the remainder through private donations. So far, about $300,000 of that amount has been raised.

The airport authority set lease rates in March and local pilots expressed their displeasure in April over the terms of proposed lease agreements for hangar space.

About 30 pilots were present at the meeting between the airport governing body and loosely formed Cleveland Airport Owners and Pilots Association to engage in constructive dialogue. Veteran pilot and Chattanooga attorney Tad Wintermeyer spoke on behalf of the pilots who linked lease agreements to the success of Cleveland Regional Jetport. Wintermeyer and the pilots association agreed to a revised land lease, hangar lease, T-hangar lease and construction minimum standards.

At one point during the discussion in April, he said an airport can have every possible amenity including fire trucks and fully manned control towers, but amenities do not necessarily make for a busy airport.

“If you build the new runway, the fancy facility, the shiny new fuel trucks, will the demand naturally follow?” he asked. “If you build a fancy terminal and hire a marketing director, will that in and of itself cause self-propagating, organic sustainable growth?”

Wintermeyer identified the association of owners and pilots as a group of residents concerned about maximizing the potential of the new facility. He said one goal is to promote self-sustaining growth by looking at existing pilots in the community.

“Does the jetport bring the jets?” he asked. “Does naming it a jetport bring the aviation to you?”

CMAA Chair Lynn DeVault pointed out there were 85 airplanes owned in Bradley County and only 35 are at Hardwick Field.

“As much as I love you guys, you don’t represent most of the owners,” she said. “Most of the owners have had to take their airplanes to other places because the facilities have not been adequate for corporate aircraft.

“Jones Management owns three and we want to bring our airplanes back. We paid $600,000 in ad valorem tax to Hamilton County several years ago and we find that pretty unacceptable. There are 50 aircraft that belong to Bradley County owners that cannot use Hardwick Field. We really have to take into account this airport is more than a community airport where people get together and fly on Sundays.”

DeVault said there are 13 Fortune 100 manufacturers in the area and Global Express flying into Chattanooga on a weekly basis delivering parts to Volkswagen and other industries.

DeVault said the authority wanted to be fair and equitable and asked the pilots to “Please understand that your stated purpose for the airport is only one of the things we have to address,” she said.

It was learned in May that the three-letter identifier assigned to the Cleveland Regional Jetport by the Federal Aviation Administration is RZR, which led to the Cleveland Municipal Airport Authority coming up with a slogan: “Cleveland Regional Jetport, the cutting edge of aviation.”

Also in May, airport authority members approved a motion authorizing DeVault to request TDOT to amend the contract with Wright Brothers Construction to include the Rolling Hills wetlands mitigation contract for grading, erosion control and grassing on the proposed project.

Initially, most of the work was given to the Cleveland Public Works Department, but it proved to be beyond the city department’s capabilities. The original amount was $60,000. The amended amount was $275,000. The federal government’s 90 percent share equaled $247,500 and the state and local share was $27,500.

In addition, the airport authority also learned in May that the Cleveland project earned a Transportation Development Foundation Globe Award. The Globe Awards, established in 1998, highlight examples of excellence in the environmental-conscience transportation construction industry in both private and public-sector transportation agencies.

Only those agencies that do an outstanding job in protecting or enhancing the natural environment in the planning, design, and construction of U.S. transportation infrastructure projects are eligible for a Globe Award.

Mark Fidler, who managed Fayette County Airport near Somerville in West Tennessee, assumed the role as director of operations/marketing on June 14.

Fidler came in with about 48 years’ experience managing airline dispatch offices for Northwest Airlink, and flying for Braniff, FedEx, and as a corporate pilot for Fortune 500 companies, accumulating about 10,000 hours of flight time.

He managed the Fayette County Airport five years. He was selected from among 24 resumes received by the Cleveland Municipal Airport Authority.

The airport authority agreed in December on a hybrid management arrangement between airport manager Mark Fidler and Crystal Air, which will continue as the fixed-base operator.

Crystal Air began operating Hardwick Field on May 1, 2007. The airport authority had been searching for a way to keep Taylor Newman and Crystal Air at the new airport on Dry Valley Road, but could not come to a satisfactory financial arrangement.

DeVault said two previous proposals were rejected, “because they couldn’t cover our light bill, but I think we now have one that has addressed what we have said. Money issues are now pretty close together. It would be $6,000 (a year) more to use Taylor than to go the other way.”

Under previous scenarios, Crystal Air would have received proceeds from fuel sales. Under the new arrangement, the city will receive proceeds from fuel sales as well as terminal space and hangar rental. The city will then pay Crystal Air for staffing the facility and management of the terminal building, maintenance hanger, T-hangars and regular and preventive maintenance on the airport, including groundskeeping.

Crystal Air will monitor the hourly need per day for FBO services, but would initially start by staffing the airport from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Staff would include one full-time and three part-time personnel.