Friday, September 11, 2015

Casa Grande Municipal Airport (KCGZ) wants more corporate jet traffic to Phoenix

Seeing an opportunity, Casa Grande Municipal Airport Manager Richard Wilkie marketed the airport as an alternative destination for people flying into the Phoenix area to attend Super Bowl XLIX.

As a result, the airport served 13 corporate jets, allowing the city to also promote what Casa Grande has to offer potential businesses.  

“During the Super Bowl, (the Phoenix area) is a controlled airspace. It’s locked down. If you didn’t get in by a certain window and in fact, in order to land during the Super Bowl, you actually had to schedule flights into some of the major airports,” Wilkie said. “We were offering how easy it is to fly in here. You fly in when you want. We had a few transportation companies and provided that to the people who flew in. “We tried to promote local, ‘hey you can come in, stay the night and zip up to the Super Bowl and then come back down. It’s easy because there is not a wait.”’

Wilkie said major sporting events in the Valley provide an opportunity for the city to market itself to potential businesses.

“A lot of the people going (to the Super Bowl) have a lot of money and they own their planes,” Wilkie said. “With the Super Bowl, Pro Bowl, the Phoenix Open, it was just ‘let’s try and capture as much as we can.’”

It’s a strategy that he said will continue as the Valley is set to host the college football National Championship game in January and the NCAA Final Four in 2017. It’s also part of a larger plan for the airport that Wilkie presented to the City Council Monday that includes close to $600,000 in improvements.

The improvements include an estimated $254,000 for hangar repairs, involving weather stripping, sliding repairs and gutters to help with some of the flooding issues that airport users have complained about.

Other improvements include a new aviation-grade fuel tank, fuel delivery truck, exterior enhancements for the terminal and pavement maintenance, which Wilkie said is always one of the larger expenses.

“Because we live in the desert and the heat and the cold environment, cracks will expand. With that much pavement out there, cracks will happen,” he said. “(The airport) is a return investment — a positive attitude that could lead into a potential business opportunity in the community.”

Future improvements include new hangars, including a multi-use hangar that would support the two fly-in events that occur at the airport, recruitment of additional commercial operations and an extension of the runway.

Wilkie said the runway extension won’t be designed to accommodate commercial airline traffic. Instead it will be designed to allow for heavier, larger Gulfstream corporate jets that the current runway can’t accommodate during the summer months because of the heat.  

“When you take off, you wouldn’t be able to fully fuel your aircraft,” Wilkie said of the current runway and the summer heat. “What we are trying to do with the extension of the runway is we are trying to accommodate any of those aircraft throughout the year so they can utilize the facilities, fuel up and then take off fully loaded.”

Currently the airport is not a towered airport, but that could change as operations increase.

Wilkie said if PhoenixMart proceeds as planned, the air traffic could well exceed the threshold the FAA sets for the need for a towered airport.


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