Oct. 01--Three prospective operators appeared before the board of the Mount Airy-Surry County Airport Monday night in the hopes of winning a five-year contract with a two-year optional extension to take over as the airport's Fixed Base Operator (FBO).
The move came as the board met for a special meeting to consider the responses to a request for proposals. The current contract with Ra-Tech Aviation ends on Dec. 31.
Airport Authority Chairman John Springthorpe told the board, and the three candidates, that no action was to be taken at the meeting.
"This is just an opportunity for you to make your pitch," he told the three, noting that only the evaluation committee had looked over each proposal. "We're not anticipating the specifics of your proposal, rather a chance to sell the authority on what you can do for the airport."
It was, he said, "a chance for the board to meet you face to face."
The three candidates included current president of the Surry County Pilot's Association Randy Goins; Davidson County-based Fly High Inc.; and current FBO Ra-Tech Aviation.
During his presentation, Goins told the authority members assembled that he wants to "build a better, stronger aviation community in the area."
"I want to focus on mending fences and growing the operation," he said, noting that the airport has received some bad press recently due to ongoing legal troubles resulting from lawsuits. "There has been a lot of tension that's been here for the past few years, and I'd like to end that by rebuilding relationships."
But he said he sees more for the airport than just fixing what's broken.
"I don't just want to manage the airport, I want to grow it and do something with it," he said. "This airport can have a positive economic impact on the community."
The request for proposals calls for the FBO to offer fueling services, aircraft maintenance and storage and airport management.
"We can, and should, do more with these," Goins urged. "Our current environment feels like a non-profit. It feels like we aren't trying to grow."
Goins envisions an on-site restaurant, adding an aircraft sales and brokerage service and adding aircraft washing services.
"We also want to expand on existing operations," he said. "I am serious about this airport, and if you can make a career out of something you love, you've really done something."
During the presentation by Fly High Inc., Director Karel Van Der Linden said the airport's future should be dictated by the needs of its customers.
"At Fly High, we're very customer-oriented and want high customer satisfaction," he said, noting his company has overseen growth at the Davidson County airport.
Part of their plan is to focus on staff and improving the online presence of the airport, including introducing software that would offer web-based, real-time information for customers.
"We want to emphasize growing the airport and making it more effective for the community," he said.
Van Der Linden said his intention is to work with the authority to "take the airport to the next level in service and sales."
"We want to focus on what we have here already, including the Very Surry initiative," he said of the tourism slogan used by local officials. "And we also want to perform a full-scale review of what's available and work with the community to discover the best way to market the airport."
The important thing, he added, is to drive traffic and build on the customer base through heavy marketing.
"We want to be as aggressive as we can be to generate more transient traffic," Van Der Linden said. "We can't survive on existing traffic alone. We need to build on that."
Delivering a shorter, more succinct presentation to the board, John Spane, owner of Ra-Tech Aviation, said his company has been managing the airport's FBO duties for five years.
He said his company is offering two planes for the airport's flight school as well as instructors who will be available by appointment.
"On the mechanical side, we have two licensed mechanics who are in-house certain days a week and are also available by appointment," he said.
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Assuming the City Council approves the airport authority's involvement in the deal, Ryks said Monaco Aviation could come on board as Duluth International's new FBO in November.
Almost overnight, the business of airports changed; yet, many past issues linger.