Sunday, October 19, 2014

Permian Basin International Oil Show: Airports expect increased traffic

With an estimated three times the normal jet traffic to come into Schlemeyer Airport during the Permian Basin International Oil Show, staff will have its hands full in one of the busiest times of the year.

Scott Jones, a line service technician at Schlemeyer Airport, said the airport had at least triple the corporate traffic from four days before the oil show until two days after it ended two years ago, the last time the exhibition was in town.

“They show up in droves,” Jones said. “It always coincides with Airsho time, so October is a busy time for us.”

Jones said because the airport doesn’t charge landing fees or ramp fees, it’s a popular alternative to Midland International Airport. While gang hangar storage is normally $50 per night, Jones said it’s already full and won’t have any vacancies for the oil show.

That means the airport will be storing any planes that don’t have a hangar, or haven’t worked out a deal with someone who does, on the aprons and different ramps.

Main aprons can only hold about eight planes, and fill up quickly, Jones said.

“It’s busy and that’s kind of the way we want it around here,” Jones said. “It’s not a problem, just a little hard work.”

Ector County Judge Susan Redford said she expects an increase in activity at the airport and the county is already working to prepare for the oil show.

County employees are bumping up a landscaping project to have it done before the oil show in addition to adding awnings on some of the buildings at the airport, Redford said.

She also said some of the rehabilitated taxiways at the airport should attract people.

“If we have more air traffic coming in and out of our airport during that week, it definitely would result in more revenue for the county,” Redford said.

The county allows the sale of fuel on-site and gets a flow fee from the fuel company.

Debbie Fair, one of the owners of the new fixed base operator at Schlemeyer Airport, said in her first year of being with the airport for the oil show, they’re hoping to attract some people by advertising and direct mail outs.

People may be more used to flying into Midland International Airport because they have more space, she said, but they hope to change that.

She also said she knows of one company bringing in three airplanes that will be on display during the oil show.

Tony Fry, executive director of the oil show, said which airport people fly into will partially depend on whether they are flying private or commercial, since commercial flights do not fly in to Schlemeyer.

Fry said he has no preference which airport people fly in to, because the oil show is for the entire Permian Basin, including Midland and the Midland International Airport. However, he said it was important that two functional airports are located so closely to the show.

Oil show officials have estimated up to 45,000 people could visit the oil show, which could mean more fuel is purchased.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Dale Childers said he hopes to showcase the airport and a business-friendly environment that has been forged there.

With the high-end businesses that will be flying in, Childers said, a lot more fuel will be purchased than usual. Ector County receives a fee for fuel that is purchased at the airport.

Marv Esterly, director of Midland International Airport, said they expect to see similar increases as Schlemeyer in both commercial and private flights.

“There’s definitely an uptick in traffic when the oil show comes around,” Esterly said. “I suspect that this year is going to be even better than prior years.”

Esterly said while airlines won’t add flights to the schedule, flights that previously may not have been full will be packed and that gang hangars at the airport will also be housing more aircraft.

The pricing of the gang hangar and ramp fees for private flights varies based on the type of plane and other factors, Esterly said, and is determined by Landmark, the airport’s fixed base operator.

Sara Bustilloz, city of Midland spokeswoman, said because the airport is self-funded, increased business is important.

“It affects our bottom line,” Bustilloz said.

“The more business that we see, the more improvements and projects we can get going out at the airport.”

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