Sky King in relocation talks with Millington; California charter firm eyes jetport as new home for maintenance facility

Aug. 22, 2007

Sky King Inc., which flies charters across the country, is negotiating a deal to move its maintenance facilities to Millington Regional Jetport.

Tracy Williams, executive director of the airport, confirmed the sides are negotiating.

"Our airport authority has not been presented with a formal request to approve. We are still waiting additional information."

Gregg Lukenbill, former managing partner of the Sacramento Kings and head of Sky King, could not be reached Friday at the airline's headquarters in Sacramento.

But he told the Sacramento Bee this week that he is working to finalize details with Millington Airport Authority to move the maintenance base and perhaps the entire airline at some point in the future.

Sky King employs 125 people in Sacramento, including about 40 in maintenance.

It plans to lease the mostly vacant 50,000-square-foot barrel hangar the U.S. Navy built on the former base in 1944.

About 90 percent of Sky King's flights are east of the Mississippi River, including 20 to 30 charter flights a week into Memphis and Tunica.

The local flights are flown by Gold Transportation, a New Jersey company that leases Sky King's planes.

Sky King currently flies the planes to Sacramento for maintenance, which costs about $30,000 per trip.

The sides have been in discussions since early July when Sky King made a proposal to the Millington Airport Authority.

At that time, the airline said it hoped to move some operations by this fall.

Sky King flies seven 737-200s. Until now, its clientele has included mostly sports teams. But rising fuel prices are changing the market. This year, Sky King doesn't know if it will fly any teams.

Northwest Airlines announced this week that it had renewed contracts to fly the Wisconsin Badgers and Notre Dame football teams. It also transports eight NFL teams.

Sky King is concentrating on casino junkets. But it also flies government-approved passengers from Cuba to the United States, a business it expects will increase as Castro's era comes to a close.

- Jane Roberts: 529-2512