Saturday, September 21, 2013

With annual Fly-In, Barwick-Lafayette Airport (9A5) manager looks to new horizons

Attendees at the annual Barwick-LaFayette Fly-In on Saturday, Sept. 28, are likely to notice several new faces.

The terminal has undergone more than a facelift. The rebuilt facility opened this spring, and the airport has a new manager whose goal is to make the local airport more appealing to businesspersons, pilots and citizens.

Todd Landry is a Florida-born pilot who always knew he wanted to work with planes.

“ I grew up in Orlando,” he said. "When I was a little kid, I wanted to be an airline pilot."

Landry has worked in nearly all aspects of the flight business and has enough experience — both in and out of the cockpit — to know what makes a regional airport desirable and successful for pilots, passengers and citizens.

"Right out of high school, I started working at an airport re-fueling airplanes,” he said. “I got all my flight ratings: commercial, multi-instrument, and so on.”

Landry spent 13 years as a corporate pilot. That role found him flying for hospitals and restaurants, including piloting for the founder of Carraba’s restaurants. But while the job was exciting, its hours were a drag.

“I'd be gone for two weeks at a time, then come home and he (the client) would say ‘you guys have three days off,’ and then the very next morning he'd call us at 5 in the morning – ‘hey, we've got to go out to Dallas or wherever.’ So that didn't work," Landry laughed.

Landry said he hoped to become a commercial airline pilot, but, discouraged by the events of 9/11, he decided to leave the cockpit and pursue a career in airport management instead.

After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in aviation management from the University of Southern Illinois, he worked for both major Orlando airports and most recently was manager of the Richard B. Russell Regional Airport in Floyd County.

"I've worked in aviation probably a little over 23 years,” he said. "I love it here.”

And after being in LaFayette for a few months, Landry has identified a few changes he would like to see in the future.

“This airport has a lot of room to grow,” he said. “There's room for improvement."

The biggest item on his wish list is buying about 20 acres available behind the terminal and using that space to build more hangers and extend the taxiway.

At present, no funds have been earmarked for more construction at the airport. The city council would have to budget and approve such a project and no funds have been earmarked for airport construction, including the list of proposed Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax projects set for a vote in November.

On a more immediate and manageable scale, Landry hopes to expand refueling facilities at the regional airport.

Currently, only small-engine planes that use av (aviation) gas can buy fuel at the Barwick-LaFayette airport; those seeking jet fuel have to be re-directed to another facility.

"It kind of hurts when someone comes in with a turbine aircraft and we tell them there's no jet fuel. They have to go to Chattanooga or Rome or somewhere,” he said.

Availability of jet fuel could also attract larger, and more fuel thirsty, aircraft to regularly visit LaFayette.

"If I were to get a Gulfstream III in here, we could make $10,000 off one aircraft,” he said. "We had the lieutenant governor fly in last week and the governor the week before. And I know right now they have to tanker their fuel, so they don't have to purchase any here."

Jet fuel would add a draw for corporate aircraft as well, he said, which would be a boost to local economic development in terms of businesses looking for reasons to relocate or expand to a new area.

Overall, adding jet fuel to the airport is not only feasible but would not be too costly as much of the equipment is already available.

"We do have a jet tank already," he said. "I've had someone look at it, and it would be about $6-7,000 to get it back operating. But then, what I want to do is get a jet truck and an av gas truck so we can go out and do full service instead of self-serve.”

Other things the airports needs are not so easily remedied, though, Landry said.

"We are restricted," he said. "We're kind of land-locked where we have buildings on this side and the road over here. We can go wider with it, but we just did that about 10 years ago. I don't know if we could ever re-route that road around."

Today’s runway is one mile long, but, ideally, Landry said it needs to stretch for at least another 1,000 to 1,500 feet. That increase in length would allow room for the larger planes, more business and bigger bucks for the airport.

Right now, the airport is surviving on its steady business of mostly local flying enthusiasts, industrial transport and businesspersons come to view the area.

The airport can see between approximately two and 15 planes touch down each day, depending on the weather, Landry said.

He hopes to draw in a few more by ramping up advertisement of the airport’s proximity to the municipal golf course, and making a stopover round of golf more appealing to flying businesspersons.

"Eddie, the manager of the golf course, said that anytime somebody calls us, letting us know that they're coming in to play golf, they'll deliver some golf carts over here that morning."

Landry said local industries use the airport for essential manufacturing transport just as often golfers and visiting businessmen.

"The businesses like Roper over here — and (Clark-Cutler-McDermott) just opened up their new plant — they have to fly parts in when they get behind...They fly parts in the middle of the night when a lot of people won't see them."

And because no scheduled airlines fly here, airport traffic is rarely noticed by the majority of LaFayette’s citizens, Landry said.

"We get the governor and the lieutenant governor, they fly in here. That's making money for the city,” he said. "We've had people come in for horse shows…And just general business meetings around the city, people will fly in for."

The airport also can become a critical asset during emergencies, Landry explained.

“The airport allows medical flights for sick or injured people and organ transports,” he said. “Also, if a natural disaster was to occur, supplies could be flown into LaFayette’s airport.”

He hopes that this year’s Fly-In will showcase the airport and its potential, and educate the public about its steady, determined growth can help make the city economically stronger.

For anyone unable to make the Fly-In or who want to come back for more, Landry ex-tends an open invitation to the public to come visit the airport anytime.

"Feel free to come out and watch the planes,” he said.

And for anyone interested, flying lessons are available. “There are two instructors on the field. Learn to fly and get a better idea."

For more information on the Barwick-LaFayette airport, contact Todd Landry at 706-638-7071.

Close-up with Todd Landry

Orlando, Fla.

Childhood dream: To become an airline pilot

Previous FBO experience
: Orlando Sanford International Airport, Orlando International Airport, Richard B. Russell Regional Airport (Rome/Floyd Co.)

Education: B.S. in aviation management from Southern Illinois University

Family: Married to wife Tami for 22 years; three daughters; Caitlyn, Brooke and Savanna

Contact: Barwick-LaFayette Municipal Airport, 706-638-7071

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