Glendale's 2nd Chance

Glendale's 2nd Chance Built in 1987, an airport begins to reach its potential through orchestrated effort BY John F. Infanger, Editorial Director July 1999 GLENDALE, AZ — The Glendale Municipal Airport was named the 1999...


Glendale's 2nd Chance

Built in 1987, an airport begins to reach its potential through orchestrated effort

BY John F. Infanger, Editorial Director

July 1999

GLENDALE, AZ — The Glendale Municipal Airport was named the 1999 Arizona Airport of the Year recently. For James J. McCue, A.A.E., and other officials in this growing suburban community just west of downtown Phoenix, the honor served as somewhat of a stamp of recognition for the ambitious reenergizing effort they have orchestrated during the past five years.

Constructed in 1987, Glendale Municipal suffered through a number of failed tenant businesses, weak activity, and a lack of financial and political support from the city sponsor in its early years. But that began to change in 1993, when a refocused initiative by the city brought in McCue to give the airport direction, in line with the city's economic development push that had as one element an industrial park adjacent to airport property.

It was also during this timeframe that certain dynamics began to take shape as a community on the rise started building on synergies that arise in a vibrant local economy.

Glendale's time had come. And it was up to McCue, the city leaders, and state and federal officials to see to it that this relatively new airport was included as an instrumental player in the overall development game.

"The forces are in place," comments McCue, who points to a soon to be completed divided highway nearby as evidence. "One of the major forces is this freeway. Within a year, the highway will connect with I-10; we're going to be literally minutes away from there at six miles.

"There's been a major push for a major movie studio one mile east of us, with one of the largest sound stages in the country.

"The developer came to me a couple of years ago and said, ’If we get this thing together, you have to guarantee me that we're going to have at least two flights a day from here to Burbank.' I don't mean 737s or DC-9s, but a Citation 135 operator or the like."

Whether or not that comes to pass, the city is positioning Glendale Municipal for growth. It is McCue's job to give the airport ongoing direction and definition. Since arriving here, he has focused on attaining and using government funding, and has overseen capital improvements at the airport totaling over $9 million.

New, but Undefined
Interestingly, Glendale Municipal was built in the mid-1980s, at a time when few new general aviation airports were being built and, in fact, were in decline. It was constructed on land donated by a local developer, John F. Long. In some cities, it may have created a dynamic quickly; here, it waited for the urban reach of Phoenix to head west, which it is doing today.

The airport foundered. FBOs couldn't survive and the airport was drawing a subsidy from downtown of a half million dollars a year and more. In 1994, the city hired McCue, who had experience at Toledo, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati. Coincidentally, it was about this time that Jake Starr took over the fixed base operation, Glendale Aviation.

"When I got here, I found a sleepy little airport," explains McCue. "There were so many things that could be done. Admittedly, it took about a year and a half to find out where the support is, where the financing is going to be, where will the feds agree to put money into it.

"You had to look at a vision. One day my boss and I were out looking over the airport and he asked me, ’What do you think about that second (proposed) runway?' I said, ’I'm glad you brought that up because I really don't think it's going to work. I don't think it's going to be a revenue generator. I think we're going to (create) noise problems. I'd sort of like to look at it (the property) as a revenue generator in some way.' He liked the idea."

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