Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Riddell to move bulk of aircraft sales operation to Fayetteville

By JOEL WALSH, Northwest Arkansas Times
 January 17, 2012

FAYETTEVILLE — A southeast Arkansas businessman is ready to lease the Fayetteville Executive Airport’s largest hangar.

The roughly 17,000-squarefoot building, north of the Arkansas Air Museum, has lacked an anchor tenant since a mechanics school called the Arkansas Aviation Technologies Center left Drake Field in 2007.

Darryl Riddell, who owns South Delta Aviation in Helena-West Helena, said this week he plans to move the bulk of his aircraft sales operation to Fayetteville to be closer to his two grown children.

“We like the Fayetteville area and enjoy our time up there, and we have decided that we’re going to more or less move,” Riddell said.

Riddell said he’ll keep a location in Helena-West Helena and plans to fly back to the Arkansas Delta once or twice each week.

His company buys, repairs and sells aircraft. Riddell said he would likely hire at least two or three employees and may expand his business in Fayetteville at some point.

Before South Delta Aviation moves, the city will renovate the hangar. The upgrades will include motorizing the building’s doors, removing classroom partitions, adding carpet and painting walls.

The airport has been using the building to house several motor homes, for which their owners have paid rent. Those will be moved to another hangar, said Ray Boudreaux, the airport’s executive director.

All told, the renovation is expected to cost $280,000. Eighty percent, or $224,000, is eligible for reimbursement through a grant from the Arkansas Aeronautics Commission.

“I don’t think that’s going to be a big problem,” Boudreaux said. “We should be able to get that.”
Under a lease up for approval Tuesday by the Fayetteville City Council, the airport would charge $3,000 per month for two years. The lease would begin June 1.

It would take airport officials more than a year to see a return on their investment, but, they said a new tenant could have a big impact on an organization that has been struggling to make ends meet.

The airport won’t have to pay to heat a largely empty hangar anymore, Boudreaux said, and Riddell’s company will bring more flights and increased fuel sales to Drake Field. The airport’s administration takes a percentage of all fuel sales by Million Air, the company that provides fueling and other services to pilots.

“Even if he doesn’t remain beyond a couple of years, we’ll have a much better facility there for any other use,” said Bob Nickle, chairman of the Airport Board, during a meeting Thursday.

James Nicholson, financial coordinator at the airport, told the board he’s hopeful the airport can close the books on 2011 with greater operational revenue than expenses.

According to his report, the city-owned airport took in $670,553 last year and spent $680,524.

Nicholson said Million Air still owed the airport an estimated $11,000 in fuel flowage fees for October, November and December.

The airport budgeted for a $52,522 deficit last year.

If Riddell rents the mechanics school hangar, one of 10 large, corporate hangars at Drake Field will remain vacant, Boudreaux said.

According to him, four of 81 smaller T-Hangars are available for lease.

Source:  http://www.helena-arkansas.com

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