Inside the Fence

On condo hangars and a unique flight training initiative — outtakes from Aurora ...

• This issue’s cover story on Aurora Municipal Airport relates how it has become a player in the corporate aviation arena. That success is perhaps most attributable to two things: 1) the city — its commitment to the airport as an economic generator; and its willingness to invest public dollars in infrastructure, laying the groundwork for private investment; and 2) long-time airport manager Bob Rieser.

Says Rieser, “I’m on my fifth mayor. I’ve been fortunate to have worked with people who all shared the same vision. We’ve understood the direction we needed to go, and I know I can rely on the support of the tenants if something comes up.”
Rieser’s tenant support comment is a reference to the airport’s long-time FBO Luminair and the tenants of Skyhaven, a sort-of condo complex that Rieser says gets a lot of attention from his peers.

“This is the most requested lease I get from all across the country, as far away as Alaska,” he says. The complex has 194 units, from 1,089 sq. ft. to 7,000 sq. ft., and a total investment of $21.9 million. Rent brings some $200,000 to the airport annually.

The 20-plus-10 lease for Skyhaven was just rolled over. Tenants have an association that deals with Rieser on business matters. “The biggest sales force anyone could have is those tenants,” he comments.

• In a time when many airports are looking at getting into various aviation services, Rieser says the City of Aurora wants his focus on managing.
“Over the years I had put together two different plans for the city to build hangars,” recalls Rieser. “We went through the analysis of the city owning and renting; did all the financials based on 90 percent occupancy. The city chose to stay out of the airport business.” It’s a policy.

• Talk awhile with Bob Rieser and you get a kick out of his zest for the business. It kicks up a notch, though, when he speaks on an obvious favorite topic: the unique flight training curriculum that’s been developed at nearby Waubonsee Community College. As an active pilot and manager of a GA airport, Rieser says he has a particular affinity for energizing young people to learn to fly. So he approached Waubonsee with an idea.

“What makes it unique is how it works,” he explains. “You register as a full-time student. First year, you sign up for at least 12 hours of standard curriculum, and you go get your Private — be it at Luminair or Oshkosh or Paducah, KY. Get your Private and they give you five hours of credit. Second semester, general curriculum; go for your instrument rating for more college credit.

“Waubonsee Community College has no liability for the flight training part of it. They don’t have any investment; but they accept the ratings certificates as credit.

“It may be a way for other colleges to get into flight training.”

Thanks for reading.