Tennessee GA Airport Upgrades on Schedule

The Collegedale Airport, where pilots once had to buzz the field to clear cattle from its landing strip, is now one of the state's busiest and is poised to grow again.

"We closed on the last piece of property (about two acres) late Thursday," said Frank Zarski, director of operations at the airport since 1996.

The airport now will cover about 190 acres, which allows expansion of airport operations and will benefit other city departments, he said.

"Originally, 22 acres was needed just for extending the runway, but the city went ahead and bought a total of about 52.5 acres," Mr. Zarski said. "This allows the airport to be protected for several years."

Insurance companies require at least 5,000-foot runways for jet service, and Mayor John Turner has said the longer runways make Collegedale an attractive site for basing air freight service.

"We intend to market our airport to businesses at Enterprise South," Mr. Zarski said.

In addition to pilots based in Collegedale, he said the field's low fuel prices draw customers from other airfields and the airport is becoming a regular stopover for many "snowbirds" during their migrations to the Gulf Coast.

"And people fly in to play golf at the Honors Course," Mr. Zarski said. "If golfing weather is good, we do good business."

The additional acreage also provides room to develop a police training facility and space for use by the public works department, city officials said.

Extending the runway and creating a development-free buffer for the airfield were the major reasons elected officials said they supported expanding the city-run facility.

The five-year plan had a projected $5 million price tag in 2003, with 90 percent of that being paid by the state, according to Collegedale Vice Mayor Tim Johnson.

City officials said the entire 52.5 acres for the expansion were purchased for about $800,000.

"We've had a very successful operation," Mr. Johnson said. "By going to 5,000 feet on the runway, jets can come in."

The airport has 34 tie-downs and 58 hangars "filled to overflowing," and its inventory averages 110 fixed-wing aircraft and nine helicopters each month, Mr. Zarski said.

"This expansion will let us add hangars in the next few years," he said.

Though pleased with the prospect of letting contracts for lengthening taxiways and runways by midspring, Mr. Zarski said one element is missing at the airport.

"We need someone to operate the restaurant located in our new terminal," he said.

E-mail Mike O'Neal at

Fast Facts/Elements about the Collegedale Airport:

* The airport was first operated by the Collegedale Flying Club from a cow pasture that provided a 1,400-foot grass runway.

* Collegedale took over operation of the airport in 1990.

* The airport is self-supporting and operates with an annual budget of about $600,000.

* The airport is among the state's busiest with about 15,000 take-offs and landings each year.

* For 14 straight years, the airport has won the Front Door Award presented by the Tennessee Aeronautics Association.

Source: Collegedale Airport officials

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