Thursday, August 9, 2012

No airshow planned for 2013: Upper Cumberland Regional Airport (KSRB), Sparta, Tennessee

WHITE COUNTY -- There won't be an air show at the Upper Cumberland Regional Airport in 2013.

That update comes from a recommendation by the Operational Committee who forwarded the recommendation to the UCRA board.

That recommendation was approved during last night's board meeting.

"We'd like to recommend to the board that, because of the change over in the management and not having an FBO (fixed-base operator), the committee would like to recommend to the board that we don't do an air show next year," Wallace Austin, UCRA board chairman and operational committee representative, said. Austin added that the board evaluate airport operations for a period of 90 days -- evaluating the airport's revenue stream and consider a salary adjustment for the additional hours current employees are putting in.

The airport has been without an FBO for nearly two months. Since UCRA bought the assets and inventory of Region Air, Jim Kmet, airport manager, has been operating all aspects of the airport and, as a result, has been logging extra hours.

Since Region Air's split from the airport, flight students have been going "elsewhere" to continue their training.

"We have a number of flight students, of course, who have had to go elsewhere to get flight instruction due to the fact that Region Air owned the rental aircraft here and we're presently without a rental aircraft," Will Roberson, pilot committee representative, told board members. "The airport really doesn't have any way to facilitate the flying lessons. I understand there's more on that to come tonight ... and some possibilities there."

Two representatives from Crystal Air were in attendance at the meeting to make a pitch to board members about the services they could provide to the airport.

Crystal Air operates three FBOs in the region -- Sewanee, TN; Cleveland, TN and Dalton, GA.

The company also provides flight instruction and charter services in Chattanooga.

"We'd like to put our best foot forward in the flight instruction arena," Taylor Newman of Crystal Air said. "Flight instruction grows the airport because we're growing users to the airport. (With) flight instruction you don't make a tremendous amount of money as its individual business segment ... you're going to slowly wither away to not having any users at the airport outside of business folks coming in. You're going to lose the community base out of not having flight instruction at the airport."

The current SASO, or specialized aviation services operator, application is for flight training, charter services and aircraft rental.

Fuel sales and maintenance services may be provided by Crystal Air at a later time but are not a part of the current drafted agreement. Concerns about necessary insurance coverage were discussed and it was decided that the board should seek further counsel regarding the matter before committing to the agreement. The board unanimously approved the recommendation to allow Crystal Air to provide flight training, charter services and aircraft rental contingent upon the insurance item being resolved.

Contingent upon those items being resolved, Crystal Air would likely begin providing services on a full time basis next month.

In other business, the airport is considering the possibility of a new FBO but that decision isn't likely to be made any time soon.

"I think that's a possibility," Austin said. "It just kind of depends on how it operates with the manager and how the board feels about it but we (the operation committee) feel like, in 90 days, we'd have a good picture of how the airport would operate under a management system ... And, to say that we'll never have another FBO -- no. To say we're going to have it tomorrow -- no."

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