Tac Air Raps Chattanooga Airport for Seeking Competitor

The chief executive for Tac Air, which supplies fuel and hangar space at Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport, Monday sharply criticized the idea of adding another, similar business at Lovell Field.

"It would create two unhealthy operations," Tac Air CEO Greg Arnold said.

However, airport President Mike Landguth said officials are trying to maximize revenues in a tough aviation environment, and the facility can't legally provide an exclusive right for Tac Air to do business.

"You can't have a monopoly for anybody," Mr. Landguth said.

Chattanooga developer Ed Cagle and Cincinnati businessman Ken Allison have proposed construction of a $15 million to $20 million hangar complex on the airport's west side.

They've said the project, which could include 181,000 square feet of hangar space, offices and a conference room, would inject competition and help draw more private aircraft to the airport.

The airport has formally asked for proposals to build and run a fixed-base operation, which are due May 15.

Mr. Arnold said Texas-based Tac Air is satisfying the needs of the market, which he contended is not expanding.

The Tac Air CEO said he favors competition, but on a level playing field. Company officials expressed concern about federal funds possibly being used to provide infrastructure for a new facility, though airport authorities say Tac Air's operations received similar benefits when those were built decades ago.

Mr. Arnold said Tac Air, which bought Krystal Aviation in 2002 and employs about 40 people here, already has competition from fixed-base operators at other airports.

"Aircraft don't have to buy fuel every time they come to Chattanooga," he said.

Mr. Arnold said he wants to talk to airport officials to help it over its financial problems and generate added revenue.

"You have a partner in us," he said.

Dan Jacobson, Airport Authority chairman, said officials plan to take up Tac Air's offer.

"We've got goals and objectives," he said.

Authority member Jim Hall said the panel needs to grow the airport's business.

"We have to take risk to do that," Mr. Hall said.

Mr. Arnold said while he doesn't see another fixed-base operator on the airport's west side, he could foresee corporate facilities and hangars.

"We don't think there needs to be another FBO. But a corporate situation we'd have an interest in," he said.

Mr. Landguth said airport officials are looking to cut costs 5 percent this year, but he doesn't anticipate layoffs. He also said there are no plans to seek funds from the city.

With some airlines such as Atlantic Southeast Airlines cutting flights and airport expenses increasing, Lovell Field finances have taken a hit.

Mr. Landguth said that because of many airlines' financial straits, they won't pay for airport expenses other than their own anymore. He said projected costs show that other airport operations are subsidizing general aviation facilities.

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