by Bill Mitchell on September 12, 2011 - 4:56pm
There are now two fixed-based operators serving general aviation at the city-owned Chattanooga Metro Airport.
But long-time operator, TAC Air, says the city is not playing fair.
Its asking the FAA to step in and take a look.
The outcome could change the way things are done at airports around the country.
As commercial airports go, Chattanooga Metro is not one of the busiest.
And the recession has cut general aviation, and private aircraft ownership almost in half.
That increases pressure on the companies who rent space at airports to serve business and private aviation.
Tac-Air has been the fixed base operator since 2002.
But, in August, Wilson Air Service began operating in a 5-million dollar building owned by the airport board.
Tac-Air says that's not fair.
PAM MCCALLISTER, TAC AIR GEN. MGR. "Its really made it difficult for us to compete fairly with them, they really don't have to have a return on their investment."
The fact that Tac Air is having to change it's operation seems to have been the city's goal.
MAYOR RON LITTLEFIELD, AUGUST 8, 2011 "..and I hope that this will spark the other FBO operator to do some new and inspiring things with the properties they manage."
Pam McAllister says her company has had to lower fuel prices since the new facility opened.
PAM MCCALLISTER "At the time we were very competitive with what Wilson was offering nationally, in fact they were about 50 cents a gallon higher that us at that time."
Tac Air says it will ask the FAA to take a look at the issue of private companies competing against government-owned facilities.
PAM MCCALLISTER "Its not technically a lawsuit, we're taking a different route, dealing with the FAA directly."
Christina Siebold, representing airport CEO Mike Landguth, says Metro Airport will let the FAA decide.
VOICE OF CHRISTINA SIEBOLD, CHATTANOOGA METRO AIRPORT "We'll give that agency an opportunity to review the questions raised in the letter and issue their findings before we make a public statement."
TAC Air says there are similar lawsuits underway across the country.
City leaders say the new facility is just creating competition, which is good for general aviation in Chattanooga.