Private air traffic through Baton Rouge already was bustling before Hurricane Katrina, said Landon Petty, the new chief operating officer of Louisiana Aircraft.
And like so many other aspects of the local economy, it was intensified by the 2005 storm.
Petty's company, headed by local real estate developer Jim Tanner, bought the private air service company near Metro Airport last week for undisclosed terms.
The new owners hope to take advantage of the demand and fill what local officials say is a definite need for more services in the local market, namely storage space.
Petty said Louisiana Aircraft, known in industry parlance as a fixed-based operator, hopes to break ground in two to three months on new hangar facilities that could open as soon as late next summer.
"The need to keep them out of the elements and indoors is really critical on a lot of these airplanes," Petty said Tuesday. "We're pretty close to being full right now on hangar space."
Petty said in addition to growing demand for privately chartered flights, Baton Rouge has seen more traffic from corporate aircraft, and the industry has begun introducing smaller, more affordable jets.
"There's a waiting list of people who want to put a hangar somewhere on the airport," Anthony Marino, said flight director of Metro Airport. "We were contemplating building them ourselves, but we don't want the airport competing with private companies."
Marino said Louisiana Aircraft already has made several improvements to the facility. The company's hangar construction would be "a feather in the cap at the airport," he said.
Petty said several details of the new facilities were still being worked out, some of which must pass muster with federal aviation authorities.
He said Louisiana Aircraft does not anticipate major staff changes. The company has about 67 employees, and some additional positions will be created with the expansion.
Tanner, who was out of town and unavailable Tuesday, bought the 67-year-old company from James Davison, the Ruston businessman and trucking magnate.
Tanner's developments include The Bluffs Country Club and Resort in St. Francisville. Tanner met Davison while visiting a country club Davison owned in Ruston.
"James and I both agreed that this market would be best served by local ownership, and here we are a few months later starting a new chapter at Louisiana Aircraft," Tanner said in prepared comments.
Louisiana Aircraft, which opened in 1940, will continue offering ExxonMobil's AVITAT brand of aviation fuels and products.
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