CREATIVE ($$) PLANNING
In St. Louis, officials work to guarantee Lambert's future as a hub
By John F. Infanger, Editorial Director
Col. (Ret.) Leonard Griggs
ST. LOUIS - Your main tenant - the very reason you're a hub airport - is in bankruptcy, yet you need to expand. So, you come up with a plan to help stabilize the airline, and then look at how the airport can accommodate growth at an affordable price. The plan is made, structured so that if you lose the hub carrier and traffic drops in half, you can still pay the debt. Welcome to St. Louis, where they're breaking ground, and where TWA remains, only now it is called American.
St. Louis is a working man's town, the Gateway to the West, a city known worldwide as a home of aviation, thanks to the McDonnell Douglas and Charles A. Lindbergh. They understand jobs here, and the airport has a current economic impact of some $5 billion, according to officials. That is expected to double once the new runway - the key cog in this airport transmission - adds its turbocharging effect. There was certainly opposition, particularly neighbors, and a need arose for a person of experience to lead the charge, to orchestrate.
On the TSA ...
For this article, Col. Griggs was late for the interview. He was in a meeting with a TSA man, the mere fact of which some would consider a privileged encounter. Griggs offers his view of the new Transpor-tation Security Administration ...
"One can argue whether you want federalization or you don't; but the argument's over. We have a federalized system, which I think eventually will prove itself.
"I think 9/11 proved a point: if you're going to make an airport and a system secure, you've got to go further than the airport itself.
"My direction to my security people is I want us to be the most secure airport in the nation with the best cooperative spirit of working with TSA. It's the only way it's going to work; you can't have the airports going one way and TSA going another."
One could suspect a main reason Col. (Ret.) Leonard Griggs, P.E., was rehired as director at Lambert St. Louis International is he was seen as the man who could get it done. He knew the territory, having served as Lambert's director for ten years before becoming the FAA's Assistant (now Associate) Administrator for Airports. He was now connected to Washington, a connection which he admits can be beneficial, even at a hub airport, which is already a system priority.
Says Griggs, "When I left the FAA (1993), we had an airline that was in bankruptcy and we had an airport expansion program that had gone on the shelf because the economy had been in a recession.
"We did an innovative thing. We decided the best way to do this was the city floated a $75 million bond issue and in essence bought the assets by which TWA was operating, including the gates, all the equipment - the tugs, the typewriters - everything that they operated at Lambert we owned, with the exception of a few jetways that we acquired later.
"It was probably one of the smartest moves we ever made because what it did for us, it not only brought them out of bankruptcy, it not only assured that they pay us a surcharge, we also acquired property rights. This became very, very important when TWA went bankrupt the second time and we were dealing with American Airlines."
Concurrently, Lambert officials were diligently working on creating a new master plan that would clearly outline the future of the Midwestern hub. They hired Leigh Fisher Asso-ciates as the consulting firm, and eventually nine options were drawn out, as well as a do-nothing scenario and building a brand new airport.
Explains Griggs, "We needed to be able to handle 632,000 operations and 40 million people by the year 2015. I think it's still a valid finding, irrespective of what happened on 9/11."
Officials work out a deal that involves a land swap and some money changing hands.
VISION * Congestion at Lambert Field in the 1990s was expected to increase. * Weather delays were aggravated by the placement of existing runways. REALITY * Traffic...
Capacity an Issue for Airlines, Too: While airport managers worry about future capacity needs, airlines seek to reduce seats
AAAE Follow-Up Capacity An Issue For Airlines, Too While airport managers worry about future capacity needs, airlines seek to reduce seats By John F. Infanger August 2004...
Whether the excess airport capacity in greater St. Louis, the USA's 18th-largest metro area, is a matter of bad luck or bad planning is a matter of dispute.