Friday, January 06, 2012

Tupelo Regional Airport (KTUP) looking for company to run the operations of its fixed base operator. Tupelo, Mississippi.

Tupelo Regional Airport is looking for a private company to run the operations of its fixed base operator (more commonly called an FBO), Tupelo Aviation Unlimited.

The airport is asking for proposals for a private firm to take over staffing of TAU. The airport would retain the assets of the FBO, however.

Airport Executive Director Josh Abramson said new general aviation policies have helped the airport see "large growth" in 2011 with the addition of Universal Asset Managment and Airline Maintenance Service.

From the airport:

In order to keep this great momentum going, the Tupelo Airport Authority has decided to make room for private enterprise to flourish at the airport. The first step is to issue a request for proposals to solicit a firm to take over all of the management duties of Tupelo Aviation Unlimited. The Airport Authority will establish a selection committee to ensure that Tupelo selects the best possible candidate. The goal is for the Tupelo Airport Authority completely out of the FBO business in five years.

Tupelo Aviation Unlimited is the fixed-based operator of the Tupelo Airport Authority. This is the business aviation division of the airport that provides services such as fueling, aircraft rental, hangar rental, tie-down and parking, just to name a few.

Airport officials to privatize business division

TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) -- Those who've flown out of Tupelo Regional Airport on commercial aircraft may never notice the hangars located near the facility's control tower.

Those structures house approximately 40 private aircraft, generating revenue for the facility through rental/housing fees, fuel and other items.

But airport officials say the fixed-based operator Tupelo Aviation Unlimited, which supplies these services, is hampered because it's controlled by the airport, and therefore subject to government restrictions.

Airport executive director Josh Abramson said it all boils down to one central issue: private ownership versus government control.

Abramson said he looked at many other factors before going forward with Thursday's announcement to privatize Tupelo Aviation Unlimited.

"One of the downsides of being a government entity is that we have to go through all the process, staffing and procurement that most government [organizations] do," Abramson said. "When you have a private entity, they have more flexibility and can react a lot faster to whatever the environment is."

Abramson said the decision was made for the future of the Tupelo Regional Airport -- specifically to make it more financially sound and less restricted -- but what happens to those already employed?

"Hopefully [the new management] will continue the employment of the people already working for me right now," Abramson said. "I can tell you right now, and I told my staff earlier today, we have the best qualified staff in town. They're already doing the job and they're doing it well."

FBO manager David Smith said he doesn't see the change as a bad thing at all, especially where the employees are concerned.

"I am very excited about this announcement and the possibility of another private company coming to the airport," Smith said. "I do understand that it could mean my job, but I will campaign for that and I will campaign for the jobs of my employees. The way I feel, what better employee do you have than one who's already trained?"

One of those employees, Sam Clifford, said he remains upbeat about the changeover, despite some reservations he and others have.

"Our employees here, some of them have been with this organization for over ten years," Clifford said. "They know the customers, they know the airplanes, they know the equipment and they know how to get things done. I don't see that changing. We're just gonna have another group in charge of the whole organization and we'll go on from there."

Abramson said the deadline for these proposals to be submitted is Feb. 10. After that, a selection committee will review all the proposals and hope to have a contract in place in March.

Abramson also said the building and hangar will undergo an extensive $200,000 renovation process that is scheduled to begin in April.

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