Sunday, December 06, 2015

Expanded jet service on approach at Charleston International Airport with new hangars

Private planes sit outside Landmark Aviation’s hangar in North Charleston.

As passenger demand continues to grow at Charleston International Airport for more commercial flights, private jet service is taking off, too.

To meet the need, two firms that serve the private jet market at the airport hope to invest about $11 million in upgrades, including two new hangars.

Planes line the tarmac of Atlantic Aviation in North Charleston. Atlantic Aviation and Landmark Aviation plan to add new hangars for jets near the airport, an indication of growing private jet travel in the Lowcountry.

Atlantic Aviation plans to build a 22,000-square-foot structure to house additional aircraft already looking to use the facility. The Plano, Texas-based firm also will upgrade its fuel farm and fixed-based operation. All together, Atlantic will invest about $9 million in new and refurbished facilities.

In addition, Houston-based Landmark Aviation, which sits beside Atlantic on South Aviation Avenue, hopes to invest $2 million in a new 25,000-square-foot hangar beside its existing aircraft shed of equal size. It also wants to add ramp space for more aircraft parking.

“We are at 125 percent occupancy of our existing hangars,” said Kurt Schmidt, regional manager of operations for Atlantic Aviation.

Atlantic currently operates four hangars across the airfield from the main airport terminal, which is undergoing a nearly $200 million renovation and expansion to handle increased commercial flight demand.

Upgrades to the Atlantic fixed-based operation will include new flooring, furniture, paint, lighting, signs, seating area and wiring for new technology, Schmidt said. Improvements to the fuel farm will include new pumps, structural repairs and outside lighting.

Schmidt hopes work can be completed by the end of 2016.

The expansions for both private jet services are necessary to meet growing demand, said Ben Wells, general manager of Landmark Aviation.

“Look at what’s going on in the Charleston area. Volvo is opening a car-manufacturing plant. Daimler is building one, too,” Wells said. “There is a lot of expansion going on around here. There’s also a lot of convenience in hopping on a plane without changing aircraft. That’s business time.”

He also pointed out a statis-tic often trumpeted by the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce that 43 people a day are moving to the Lowcountry.

“Some of those are business people, too,” he said. “We’ve seen a 10 percent or more increase in general aviation aircraft in the past year.”

Wells called private jet hangars a “hot commodity” in the Charleston area and said if the new one Landmark wants was already built, he’d have no problem lining up jets to park in it.

“If we could put 200,000 square feet of hangar space out here, we could fill it,” he said of both Landmark and Atlantic.

Landmark’s proposal is still in the planning stages, Wells said. It has not been presented to the Charleston County Aviation Authority, which owns the land.

The Aviation Authority recently signed off on the Atlantic Aviation expansion project.

Atlantic gained permission from the airport oversight agency to expand its build-out area by about an acre for the new hangar and extend its lease by 25 years. The current lease expires in 2023. Landmark’s lease doesn’t expire for another 15 years, Wells said.

Aviation Authority CEO Paul Campbell called Atlantic’s expansion “a great deal” for the agency. “It goes with our whole mission of trying to improve air service,” he said.

Agency attorney Arnold Goodstein said he did not foresee any problems with the Federal Aviation Administration approving Atlantic’s lease extension. The FAA, which provides federal funding for the airport, must sign off on all airport operational changes.

In Berkeley County, officials there don’t have imminent plans for new hangars, but the airport near Moncks Corner is wrapping up a $4 million, 650- foot extension of the runway to make it just over 5,000 feet long, according to county spokesman Michael Mule.

The extension will allow larger corporate jets to take off at the airport, but it can’t be used for landings until electric utility Santee Cooper moves a power line at the end of the runway. Mule said hangars could be added in a long-range plan, but funding has not been lined up.

In Dorchester County, a client is considering adding a hangar at the airport near St. George next year, but airport manager Don Hay said it’s just in the talking stages.

“A lot of times things are talked about and they don’t materialize,” he said. “It will be several years before the Summerville airport would expand.”


Planes line the tarmac of Atlantic Aviation in North Charleston. Atlantic Aviation and Landmark Aviation plan to add new hangars for jets near the airport, an indication of growing private jet travel in the Lowcountry.

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