Hangar Decision Angers Cargo Flyer



The Tampa Tribune

TAMPA - The staff of Tampa International Airport has recommended that an Alabama company be allowed to negotiate terms to lease a former US Airways maintenance hangar that has been vacant since 2002, leaving a Florida contender for the lease hollering foul.

The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority is scheduled to decide on Thursday about opening lease negotiations with Pemco World Air Services of Dothan, Ala., which said it would create 410 jobs by 2009 at the airport.

If commissioners follow the staff's recommendation, that would leave Astar Air Cargo of Miami, formerly DHL Airways, out of the picture, although not before Astar sent a letter to the aviation authority on Monday critical of how the aviation authority's "protest" process is conducted. Astar said it would ramp up from 150 jobs in 2007 to 310 in 2009 and 743 by 2011.

What appears to be unfortunate for all sides is that Tampa International has two vacant hangars, but control of the vacant Delta Air Lines hangar probably will remain tied up in Delta's bankruptcy proceedings until year's end, airport Director Louis Miller said Tuesday. An Astar attorney said the US Airways hangar was preferable.

From the standpoint of Tampa International, Pemco's proposal was promising in terms of a guaranteed $300,000 annual rent as of Jan. 1, 2009, and a 15-year lease with two five-year options, Miller said.

Astar provided no guaranteed minimum rent and proposed a five-year lease with seven one-year options, he said.

"Astar does not have a license as a maintenance repair organization, although they'd like to get into it, but Pemco is established in maintenance and does business with Southwest Airlines and Northwest Airlines," Miller said.

What troubled Astar was the outcome of the staff's recommendation and the "avenue" to protest it, said Arlington, Va., lawyer Elliott Seiden.

"Pemco is good, and we are too, although we thought we would do a better job and be a better fit," Seiden said Tuesday.

What rankled Astar's attorneys was the notion that it would have three minutes to make a presentation at Thursday's meeting, the customary amount of time companies are allowed to make oral cases for competitive bids for contracts or requests for leases. The aviation authority does not consider a request for lease a competitive bidding process.

Seiden said in his letter Monday that filing a protest would be a waste of time for Astar and the aviation authority and "would provide nothing more than the appearance of validating a sham selection process."

Aviation authority Chairman Stephen Mitchell, an attorney in private practice, wrote Seiden on Tuesday and said he hoped the attorney and his client would attend Thursday's meeting and that the board would provide Pemco and Astar "reasonable time" to present information.

Reporter Ted Jackovics can be reached at tjackovics@tampatrib.com or (813) 259-7187.

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