Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Scottsdale Airport becoming popular hub for the corporate jet-setters

By LAURIE MERRILL  The Arizona Republic 

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona — Scottsdale's high season carries a surge of sky-high travelers as a rising number of visitors fly into Scottsdale Airport by private aircraft, officials say.

From January to April, Scottsdale Airport logs thousands more takeoffs and landings each month, as both private planes and corporate jets utilize one of the busiest single-runway airports in the country.

"It keeps getting busier," said Vesna Ajic, 51, a Scottsdale author who trains pilots and for 20 years has flown for both business and pleasure. "Lots of people are coming in. That's good for local businesses."

Beckoned as much by the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show and Cactus League baseball as by the weather, golf and conventions, tourists jet in from South America, Canada and Mexico as well as around the United States, said Sarah Ferrara, the airport's planning and outreach coordinator.

"We are a true destination community," Ferrara said.

The airport saw a surge in flights in 2008, when the Super Bowl was in Glendale. That year, more than 190,000 landings and takeoffs were tallied. In subsequent years, as the recession took hold, the numbers tailed off, with slightly more than 133,000 in 2010, but since then, the trend has again turned upward, with more than 146,000 last year.

Ferrara is one of 14 full-time employees at the airport, which opened in 1942 as a World WarII basic-training facility and was acquired by the city 24 years later from the Arizona Conference of Seventh Day Adventists.

"Our role is to ensure safety, security and manage the airport," Ferrara said. "We follow official guidelines and make sure we have an efficient operation here."

Scottsdale Airport is home base to more than 400 aircraft, ranging in size from single, fixed-wing planes to corporate jets weighing up to 100,000 pounds, she said.

The airport also has corporate aircraft hangars and tie downs, and leases space to two increasingly busy fixed-base operators, Landmark Aviation and Scottsdale Air Center, Ferrara said.

Vance Briese, 75, spent a 50-year career flying, working as a bush pilot in Alaska and running a fixed-base operations center in San Diego, he said.

"This terminal is not as crowded as it once was," he remarked, looking up from his laptop while sitting in the airport lobby. "Commercial centers (like Landmark and the Air Center), handle most of the traffic nowadays."

Pilots and travelers can fuel up and keep their planes at fixed-base operators, as well as arrange for a luxurious array of amenities.

"We are the gateway to Scottsdale," said Troy Padilla, general manager of the Scottsdale Air Center. "We are the first business they see when they arrive and the last thing they see before they leave."

Golf, corporate conventions and annual shareholder meetings are all part of what attract travelers from wintry states, especially in March, he said.

"They are ready for a change," Padilla said, "and they are ready to golf."

The Air Center offers a high-class concierge service. No request is too extravagant, Padilla said.

Enjoy fine dining? Reservations are made. Are you a sports fan? A seat will be purchased. Want your rented Cadillac pulled up to the tarmac? A kennel for your pet? An appointment at the spa? Done, done and done.

"Whatever their desires are, we will try to accommodate them," he said.

Even the lobby of the Scottsdale Air Center is unlike that of a typical public airport.

Free peanut M&Ms, ear plugs and eye-glasses wipes are available in glass bowls and jars while a stocked refrigerator offers free Skinny Cow ice-cream sandwiches and bottled water.

"I love it," said flight attendant Cathy Bolton, 40, from California, who was on a 24-hour stopover in Scottsdale before continuing on a six-week trip to New York, Switzerland, India and Hong Kong.

Looking at the Harley Davidson and yellow sports car available for rent, she said, "I wish the New York City fixed-base operator was like this."

John Jackson, 57, of Boise, Idaho, was also waiting for a flight at the Scottsdale Air Center. Jackson said he owns four planes and flies mainly for his business, Jackson Oil, based in Boise.

"This is a nicer airfield than normal," Jackson said.

Across the airpark, new airplane-owner Jim Van Horn of Scottsdalewas enjoying a meal at Zulu Caffe in the Scottsdale Airport terminal at 15000 N.Airport Drive.

A former Army helicopter pilot, Van Horn owns Van Horn Aviation, which manufactures helicopter rotors.

He said he will use his recently purchased turbo-charged Cirrus SR22T mostly for business.

Sitting nearby was Ajic, the Scottsdale book author, who flies for business and pleasure.

"When I use it for private, I use it to fly to Sedona for breakfast, or to Carlsbad to get out of the heat," she said.

Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com

Source:   http://www.therepublic.com

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