NATA Hosts FBOs, Charter Firms

Image, the economy, SMS, and Part 135 dominate discussion at annual meeting

On the idea of receiving a ‘partnership’ award …

“I’m really happy to get the award. Some people might disagree, but we’ve really worked hard to try to form some partnerships in the past few years. I was serious this morning when I said, you start out as an enforcer because they give you a set of rules and everybody’s got to tow the line. And when you make the rules and have to see whether they work or not, you suddenly realize there’s another part to this too.

“The direction our commission has given us is to operate more like a business. In order for these airports to be successful, it really is the commercial operators that make it or break it for us. It’s the FBOs, the charter operators, the maintenance; we’ve tried to create a better climate for them.”

On his current initiative to review rates and charges, in light of the economic environment ...

“We had a pow wow with about six or seven of our operators and had a several hour discussion about the state of the industry and where people were and whether they could survive in this economy.

“You know, we’re not a big part of their overall expenses. We look at their total revenues and what our charges are to them, and it’s a very small percentage.

“But, having said that, we understand that there are some small margins that they’re working with; and in these times when they’re fighting for survival, anything we thought we could do to help would be a good thing.

So, we’re looking at a formula to reduce their rates for the next year at least. What we were thinking is doing a percentage rent for the first four months, then reducing it slightly for the next four months, and then reducing it again for the final four months. Then we’ll make a determination whether we want to continue with that or go back to the old rates.

On breaking ground on a runway extension to 5,000 feet at Flying Cloud Airport ...

We thought there was a demonstrated need based on some of the deadheading that was going on out of Flying Cloud to pick up passengers at Minneapolis, because of the short runway. There was a lot of concern by a core group of people around the airport.

We also did some negotiating with the city trying to make it a win/win for everybody. They (Eden Prairie) agreed not to sue us or not oppose the runway extension. In return, we are leasing them some property for a park for athletic fields. We removed a major stumbling block by negotiating with the city.

On a recent spate of runway incursions at Flying Cloud ...

There were some tower issues; they’ve had their problems. I say that having been a controller. How can you let a Citation taxi a half mile to the end of a runway and never look up and see it?

How does that happen?

In my day, those guys would have been taken off ‘the boards’ and sent to remedial training. If they didn’t pass the remedial training they were done. Today they wrote up the pilot.

On the high number of refueling companies at Flying Cloud ...

We have six fuelers. That is not a good thing. It’s one of those circumstances where Flying Cloud was in its heyday in the late ’60s. It was one of the busier airports in the country at the time. The commercial operators couldn’t keep up with all the business. And nobody looked ahead 20 years to see what was going to happen; there was no zoning; no long-range plan.

We’re having to deal with some of the residual effects of some of those decisions.

On the future of general aviation ...

I don’t think recreational flying is ever going to rebound. I think it will stay to a small degree; there’s not the passion for flying. People are just more engaged in different types of activities.
Business aviation is where we’re going to see the growth; it’s what we need to develop and plan for. As the airport people, we need to provide the facilities that allows them to utilize their airplanes and to grow their businesses. That’s what I think our role and responsibility will be.

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