Firm Plans FBO at Now-Quiet Oklahoma Airport

Jan. 26--For a number of corporate and private pilots, congestion and delays at Jones Riverside Airport are becoming more common.

And more expensive.

"Every minute you're sitting on the tarmac is money," said Dwayne Lewis, president of Platinum Air LLC, a fixed-base operator that plans to build a facility at William R. Pogue Municipal Airport in Sand Springs.

"It'll cost you $200 an hour just to start a (Beech) King Air," said Debra Lewis, Platinum Air's vice president and Dwayne's wife.

As they spoke, three deer scampered off the north end of Pogue's 5,800-foot runway. On a warm, windless, clear day, the deer outnumbered the planes at the general aviation airport four miles west of Sand Springs.

The lack of congestion drew the Lewises to the wooded hilltop on which Pogue sits.

After studying options for establishing a fixed-base operation, including an aircraft maintenance hangar, aircraft fueling operation, pilots lounges and offices, the Lewises chose Pogue for its proximity to downtown Tulsa, which is a 15-minute drive east.

"It's a beautiful airport, just a diamond in the rough," Lewis said.

In the next 45 days, the Lewises will break ground on a $1.4 million, 20,000-square-foot terminal and hangar facility on the west side of the airport. General contractor is Garver Engineers, 10015 E. 51st St.

Construction of the first fixed-base operation at Pogue is expected to take nine months.

"It will increase our business aviation clients, helping us attain our goal of diversifying operations out here," said Ken Madison, airport manager. "We have eight business aircraft based here and 62 hangars. Basically, we would like to become one of the nicer business aviation airports."

Pogue is designated as a reliever airport, diverting -- like Jones Riverside -- general and corporate aviation traffic from Tulsa International Airport.

But during the last five years, as aircraft traffic increased, Jones has brought less relief than consternation to its users, officials say.

Jones Riverside last year reported 347,091 aircraft landings and takeoffs, a 21.6 percent increase over 2004, while Pogue had about 50,000 aircraft operations.

"This is the best-kept secret in the Tulsa area," Madison said.

Joe Stephenson, a Sand Springs airport advisory board member, said he hopes Platinum Air will allow Pogue to take off as a business aviation hub.

"We're hoping to have 150 aircraft based here within five to 10 years," Stephenson said. "We have 70 aircraft here today. This is a first-class but under-utilized airport."

Pogue is a 474-acre airport with no Federal Aviation Administration air traffic control tower. Pilots observe visual flight rules, as opposed to instrument-aided flying.

Lewis said Platinum Air will employ 13 people, including five airframe and powerplant mechanics.

According to "Airport Economic Impact Calculator Report," a 2005 study by the Department of Applied Economics of the University of Minnesota, Platinum Air's investment in Pogue will create 8.96 jobs and a $1 million economic impact for Sand Springs.

An ex-rodeo bull rider who suffered two broken arms, a broken leg and broken shoulder for his prize money over the years, Lewis is a native of Alberta, Canada, and the former president of Excalibur Steel in Sand Springs.

He said he looks forward to competing with Jones for business aviation customers.

After the rodeo, he said, Platinum Air should be a breeze.