ADDISON, TX — In 1957, Henry Stuart and other local aviation enthusiasts developed Addison Airport, later selling it to the Town of Addison in 1986. It is an airport of some 371 acres in the midst of a north Dallas suburb that measures only four and a half square miles — most of which consists of offices and restaurants, swelling the population of some 14,000 to more than 100,000 during the daytime. The question for Addison Airport director Lisa Pyles, A.A.E., is, how does one lead an airport that represents all aspects of general aviation — old and new — toward what appears to be a pre-ordained future as a business aviation center? And, how does one come to terms with that history, most evident with through-the-fence operations that stifle the drive to push forward?
The airport has always been managed by private interests, first by the Stuart group and, as of January 1, 2001, by the Washington Group International, which employs Pyles.
For most airport managers, development is the word at the top of the ‘to do’ list. At Addison Airport, it’s redevelopment. “It’s a little different than some airports,” explains Pyles. “We are almost 100 percent developed. Here, we’re redeveloping the airport.
“You’re dealing with an airport in which you can’t come in and make wholesale changes; you have to kind of work within the infrastructure and the parameters that are here. That’s not a bad thing.”
It can, however, prove to be a challenging thing. When Pyles and the Washington Group took over management of the airport, she relates, the first order of business became determining what was what in terms of leaseholds and rates and charges. Prior records were, at best, incomplete, says Pyles. The airport that was once privately owned and operated still held an air of secret handshakes, lacking well-defined rates and charges — most evident today in a legal dispute over charges for through-the-fence operations.
Says Pyles, “What we have done in four and a half years is, all of the leases have been put into the proper files and all the holes have been plugged. They’re all now on what’s called Facility Wizard — you can go in and click on a particular parcel and you’ll know what the history is; when it was built; if there’s a hangar or whatever; whether or not the town owns it or the tenant still has ownership; what revenue it’s bringing in; how many square feet; the office space; what’s the period of obsolescence.
“The town really knows now what they own. In the past, it was kind of a guess. It’s taken a few years to get all the information in order.”
First and Foremost: Self-Sustaining
In all, Pyles estimates that Addison Airport is host to more than 150 businesses, from self-employed individuals who operate one aircraft to large corporate tenants such as Frito-Lay, to two fixed base operations. In fact, it could be argued that it was the Million Air FBO, long the franchise’s headquarters [since relocated to Houston Hobby], that put Addison on the business aviation map in the mid-1980s. The other FBO is First Air, which recently merged with the former Mercury Air Center.
“The makeup of the airport is turning more and more to business/corporate use,” explains Pyles.
Estimates put the economic impact of Addison Airport at some $612 million annually, according to Pyles, creating more than 2,300 jobs.
The array of business activity puts airport administration officials in an enviable position for a non-airline airport: it operates with an annual surplus. Pyles puts annual airport revenues at $4.4 million; the airport operating budget runs about $1.5 million annually. After expenses to cover the capital budget, Pyles estimates the airport is able to put aside some $1 million annually for reserves.
“It is a self-sustaining airport,” says Pyles. “It’s a good position to be in. We’ve got some substantial capital needs, but it does help, rather than having to go to the airport sponsor every year to beg for money.”
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