Macon officials spent Friday evening hammering out details of a memorandum of understanding that will bring in a private company to manage the city's two airports.
According to the memorandum, TBI Airport Management, which manages the international concourse at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, will manage both the Middle Georgia Regional Airport and the city's smaller Macon Downtown Airport until a final contract is submitted to City Council, Mayor Jack Ellis said Friday.
The move, which city Chief Administrative Officer Regina McDuffie discussed as a possibility on Monday, follows Wednesday's Federal Aviation Administration inspection at Middle Georgia Regional. That airport has been hit with a series of violations that threaten its operating certificate, which is required if the airport is to continue offering commercial flights.
A 60-day deadline to address FAA concerns passed this week, and an inspector visited the airport Wednesday, according to the FAA. An FAA spokesperson said Friday that no announcement about the results of that inspection would likely be made until next week.
An FAA spokesperson has also described TBI as a company with experience in section 139 of the FAA Airport Certification Manual - the section cited in FAA letters to airport staff that detail problems at Middle Georgia Regional.
Ellis said the FAA was notified that the city planned to work with TBI and a news release from his office states that the deal "will ensure that there will not be any interruption of passenger services at Middle Georgia Regional Airport."
The release also states that TBI will work with the city on both FAA and Transportation Security Administration requirements, because the TSA has cited Middle Georgia Regional for separate issues.
TBI manages nine airports, according to a "statement of qualifications" Ellis provided The Telegraph on Friday. It's a part owner and manager of Orlando-Sanford International Airport in Sanford, Fla., which Ellis recently said his staff was looking to as "a model" as they worked to bring Middle Georgia Regional up to federal standards and try to expand service at the airport.
"We've had an excellent relationship with TBI," Diane Crews, vice president of administration for the Sanford Airport Authority, said Friday afternoon.
TBI has a long-term lease on one of Orlando-Sanford's airport terminals and it invested heavily in the other, Crews said. "There's an overlap" between duties the company handles and those handled by the Sanford-appointed airport authority, Crews said.
"They work with us to manage the operations of the terminal," Crews said.
Ellis and City Attorney Pope Langstaff were working on the memorandum of understanding past 6 p.m. Friday, Ellis spokesman Ron Wildman said. Ellis later emerged from his office and discussed the deal briefly, saying the company would send one person to Macon to take over management at the airports, but his administration would still be ultimately responsible. He also said a formal contract must go to the council for a vote.
That contract "is being negotiated," Ellis said Friday evening.
Ellis also said that the city will still hire an airport operations manager, a key position according to FAA letters to the city.
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