Monday, January 23, 2017

Drake Field Airport (KFYV) flying high

Matthew Atkinson, airport operations supervisor for Fayetteville, demonstrates the use of a tug Friday to move a private jet along the tarmac at Fayetteville Executive Airport.

FAYETTEVILLE -- An increase in revenue and fuel sales last year has put the municipal airport in good financial standing to finish or get started on improvement projects and meet match requirements for future grants.

The city-owned airport provides service for chartered and private flights. This year's budget of $2.2 million will see most of its revenue, just under 74 percent, come from fuel sales. Rents and leases generate about 28 percent of the airport's revenue, with the rest coming from sales tax on fuel, interest income and other sources.

The airport surpassed its fuel sales goal for last year, something that hasn't come close to happening since 2012, Airport Financial Coordinator Summer Fallen said during Thursday's Airport Board meeting. Fixed-base operator revenue -- which represents money made from fueling, hangaring, aircraft maintenance and other services -- exceeded expenses by more than $256,000.

"I feel like we're moving in the right direction," Fallen said. "I feel like if fuel sales continue to go up the way that they have that we will be around this baseline, especially with the rental income going up for 2017."

The City Council on Tuesday approved a lease for Creamer Pilot Services to rent office space in the renovated storage area across from the terminal restrooms. The agreement will bring in $253 per month.

The airport also has been negotiating a permanent lease with Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, which uses the former restaurant area for classroom space. The institute previously had a temporary lease.

About 40 percent of the terminal's available space was rented at this time last year, Fallen said. The airport now has rented out the rest of its leasable space.

The airport's occurrences -- or flight takeoffs, landings and touch-and-go exercises -- went up 12 percent in 2016. The number dropped dramatically in 2015 after SkyVenture Flight School closed. Southern Eagle Aviation has since moved in with a smaller flight school.

The airport will repair the roofs of five of buildings, including the main terminal, the Arkansas Air and Military Museum and the fixed-base operator hangar. The city reached a $457,000 settlement with its insurance company to do the repairs after a hailstorm damaged the buildings two years ago, said Transportation Services Director Terry Gulley.

The damage resulted in "pesky leaks" that didn't cause any further damage, Gulley said. After the repairs are made, the airport will seek grant money to fix the roofs on three other buildings, he said.

Additionally, the airport wants to hit the ground running in 2018 on a $1.8 million project to widen one of its taxiways to accommodate larger airplanes. For example, the pilot of a Boeing 757, which the Arkansas Razorback football team uses, has to "guestimate" where to put the nose of the plane when turning on the taxiway so a wheel doesn't hit grass, Gulley said.

The airport hasn't had any such incidents, but widening the runway will prevent something like that from happening, Gulley said.

The City Council on Tuesday approved paying $49,800 to Garver LLC to prepare a preliminary engineering report for the project. Once the Federal Aviation Administration approves the project scope, Garver can get going on the subsequent phases. Construction should begin in fall 2018, said Ben Perea, project engineer.

The FAA would reimburse 90 percent of the $1.8 million project, with the state covering the remaining 10 percent. The city would cover liability insurance and other costs not grant eligible, equating to about $5,000, Perea said.

Lizzie Johnson, a new board member this year, suggested during Thursday's meeting exploring the possibility of bringing a restaurant or some kind of food service to the airport. The airport has seen restaurants come and go over the years.

Board members also expressed enthusiasm about publicizing events when the university's major sports teams depart and arrive from the airport, as long as coaching staffs sign off on the idea.

Gulley said he intends to serve as acting airport director for "the foreseeable future." Johnny Roscoe, the former director, had been commuting from central Arkansas to Fayetteville and left in September to be closer to his family. He was hired in 2014.

Acting as director gives Gulley an opportunity to work more closely with airport staff and get a clearer understanding of its operations, he said. Gulley doesn't intend to post a job opening anytime soon.

"If it gets overwhelming I will," he said.


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