Reborn Reliever

REBORN RELIEVER Tampa's airport authority and Leading Edge Aviation turn a private strip into a first-class GA airport BY John F. Infanger, editorial director November / December 1999 TAMPA — It's been a number of years in the...

Total investment in Vandenberg is $37.6 million, according to Cooley, a sum that includes land acquisitions. Of that, $25.7 million came from the federal Airport Improvement Program through 23 different grants. The state DOT has invested $5 million, including half the cost of the new terminal, while the authority has dedicated $7 million through its capital expenditure budget — not including costs related to maintenance and operations.

Environmental Issues
As with most any project in Florida, wetlands mitigation was an ongoing challenge. Stormwater runoff was a heightened concern as well, with a bypass canal that serves as a regional source for drinking water running through the airport's property. In all, five designated wetland mitigation areas totaling some 34 acres were established. And, subsequently, the Southwest Florida Water Management District awarded HCAA its Resource Regulation Design Excellence Award for its wetlands mitigation efforts.

Leading Edge Aviation
The 46,000-sq. ft. terminal building will house Leading Edge Aviation Services, the fixed base operator, with corporate amenities and pilot briefing necessities. There is 3,000 square feet of office space for corporate and business subtenants, and Leading Edge has put into place the infrastructure for most turbine aircraft maintenance needs.

The FBO is operated by Mark and David Moberg, with Mark concentrating on managing the overall operation based on his experience with Hawthorne Aviation, and David serving as vice president in charge of aircraft sales, flight training, and Part 135 on-demand charter.

Explains Mark Moberg, "We want to provide a level of service comparable to Tampa International. We have some people interested in coming to work with us who have turbine maintenance experience. Another option is to sublease space for a tenant to provide services such as turbine maintenance, avionics, etc."

A new 30,000-gallon fuel farm has been installed, split evenly between avgas and jet-A. Mark Moberg says the company has averaged some 300,000 in fuel sales annually, but he projects jet-A will jump to 100,000 gallons itself with the opening of the new facility. "It will skew everything," he says.

The Mobergs had been operating the Vandenberg FBO and were in year six of a ten-year lease. That lease expires with occupancy of the new terminal, says Cooley, and a new 10-year lease begins. Leading Edge pays a five cent/gallon fuel flow fee, 50 percent of hangar storage fees, and 88 percent of leased office space — getting 12 percent for overhead costs.

Cooley explains that Leading Edge's track record of providing FBO services led to the authority negotiating with the incumbent for the new terminal lease, rather than putting out an RFP. "They did submit a business plan, which became part of the agreement," he says. "It includes their investment for marketing and how they will develop and staff the business."

Regarding the authority, Moberg, who also is current president of the Florida Aviation Trades Association, comments, "The authority and this airport manager, in particular, are the best I've seen in terms of working as a management team to accomplish the goal of providing services to the users. It's never a battle. For example, with the displacement of our maintenance facility (due to construction), we went to them and said we were losing sales as a result. They responded, ’Tell us what your losses are and we can work something out.' Well, they did, and gave us a rebate for a period of time."

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