Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cleveland Regional Jetport nearly operational

Workers brave the chill to put the final touches on the new Cleveland Regional Jetport terminal. Officials expect the facility to be operational late next week. A grand opening is scheduled for Friday. 
Photo by Paul Leach.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Aviation officials announced Friday that the Cleveland Regional Jetport is nearing operational status.

 The new airport should be operational by late Wednesday or early Thursday, said Mark Fidler, director of marketing and operations. A grand opening is scheduled Friday.

Earlier in the week, Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland addressed the significance of the launch of the jetport, located on Dry Valley Road in northern Bradley County.

"To illustrate the growing importance and rise in air travel, Hamilton County has three airports, Polk County has two and we have one -- which is the worst and most unsafe," Rowland said of the older Hardwick Field. "Our jetport is long overdue."

The smaller Hardwick Field simply failed to meet the needs of a city trying to position itself as a leading center of modern economic growth, Rowland said.

On Friday the Cleveland Municipal Airport Authority discussed the last stages of preparation for the new airfield and plans for transitioning field services -- such as fueling -- from Hardwick Field.

Although the installation of the airport's fuel pump was delayed by recent inclement weather, Fidler said it will not affect the airport's operational schedule. Three tanker trucks will be on hand to provide 6,000 gallons of jet fuel and 1,000 gallons of aviation gas in the meantime. As for the fuel pump, the director said it may be ready in time for the grand opening if the weather cooperates.

Efforts to complete the final details of the new airport's centerpiece -- an 8,000-square-foot terminal designed to look like an upscale East Tennessee chalet -- also are moving apace.

"We have a lot of work to accomplish between now and Wednesday," Fidler said.

Some tree-cutting work will be needed along the airfield's perimeter in the near future, said Ron Fitzgerald of PDC Consultants, the general contractor handling the airport's construction. He estimated that work easily could cost $25,000.

Aviation officials agreed to pursue grants for that project and another one involving the purchase of grounds maintenance equipment.

Once the airport goes operational, Hardwick Field will not allow "transient traffic" -- essentially air travelers not already based at Hardwick -- access to services such as fueling. Transients instead will be referred to Cleveland Regional Jetport.

After that, it will be a matter of adjusting staffing levels between the two airports until Hardwick Field is permanently closed, said Taylor Newman, director of operations for Crystal Air, which takes care of operational services for both airfields.

Hardwick Field is expected to close sometime this summer, officials said.

Story and Photo:  http://www.timesfreepress.com

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