Addison - An Isle in North Dallas

The Addison Airport in the north Dallas suburbs is a land-locked airfield that is still growing out of its private airport roots.


Pyles’ staff oversees some 400 leaseholds on the airfield, few of which will come to term in the near future. She anticipates that any significant redevelopment will begin when larger parcels come to term during the next decade. As that evolves, it is expected that the focus at Addison will be more and more on business aviation, in line with much of general aviation.

“We still have private owners who are using it for recreational purposes,” explains Pyles, “but it’s a lesser amount all the time.

“Some of the comments we’ve gotten is that we don’t care about the little guy, which is typical of an airport undergoing change. This year, we did our first rate increase in five years. We have done a lot of improvements where the T-hangars are located; we’ve built new doors, repaired roofs, put in new pavement. No one can say we’re only doing improvements where the big guys are.”

Business-Friendly Philosophy

The Washington Group Interna-tional is coming up on its first five-year review of its performance in September. The airport management contract it has with the Town of Addison has the potential to run another 35 years, according to Pyles.

Prior to arriving at Addison in 2001, Pyles was the aviation director for the City of Ft. Worth, overseeing three general aviation facilities. She says she sees little difference between private and public sector management, with the possible exception of taking a more hands-off approach with based businesses.

“To me, it’s just a different way of managing the airport,” says Pyles. “I’m not one of those airport managers who thinks that if you’re going to privatize it means I’m losing my job. I’m not afraid of privatization.” Since her arrival, minimum standards have been put in place. Facilities on the airport revert to ownership of the sponsor at the end of term, and Pyles estimates Addison has some 15 corporate hangars which it now owns. “We lease those on a shorter term basis than the 30 or 40 years you would get if you built your own hangar,” she says.

Pyles describes the philosophy of WGI and the Town of Addison as business-friendly. “We don’t do a lot of telling people what they have to do,” she relates. “We believe that they can run their businesses better than we can. We just make sure they don’t do anything that make us violate the grant assurances. Other than that, an FBO decides what his hours of operation are; how many employees he has; what services he provides.”

An Ongoing Challenge: Through-the-Fence

With the history of Addison Airport comes the legacy of through-the-fence operations on the airfield’s west side. In theory, aircraft operators who use the airfield must pay for that access, as directed by the Federal Aviation Administration, which has a history of discouraging through-the-fence operations.

Pyles relates that when WGI took over the management it became evident there was no clear accounting of who was paying what for that access. As a result, WGI implemented a new system of rates to guarantee each company using the airfield was paying its fair share. That led to a lawsuit which is currently in appeal.

Explains Pyles, “We used fair market value [to calculate the fees]; the plaintiffs objected to that. Interestingly, the state district court ruled in their favor. It’s under appeal because we still believe that our fee is fair.”

WGI’s formula calls for a minimal annual fee of $1,000 for through-the-fence operators, and is based on how much square footage of a business is dedicated to aviation usage. Users were asked to submit their own numbers to calculate the fee. Pyles estimates that the formula breaks down to about 22 cents per square foot, or half of what on-airport tenants pay.

“We didn’t contest whatever they thought their aviation use was,” says Pyles. “What they contended was that we should have based it on the cost of running the airport and not on their fair market value. The FAA’s opinion, which we have in letters from FAA, is they don’t care how we calculate it as long as it’s fair.

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