Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Watertown, South Dakota: Aviation profile could expand

Assuming negotiations between two companies are successful, Watertown’s aviation profile could increase in the coming weeks as a large aircraft maintenance operation looks at establishing a branch at Watertown Regional Airport.

At its regular meeting Monday night, the Watertown City Council unanimously voted to have the city enter into a lease resolution with 1 Vision Aviation of Sioux City, Iowa, to establish a fixed-base operation at the airport.

If the lease is realized, that would mean about five or six airline mechanics — with potential room to add a couple of more mechanics down the line — would be on-site in the city and offer full-service repair for many types of large planes, including charter and commercial aircraft designed by manufacturers such as Learjet and Airbus.

Such maintenance service would even include the jets operated by the Aerodynamics Inc. airline that connects Watertown to Pierre and Denver. Currently, ADI jets in need of service have to travel off-site, including Sioux City.

1 Vision is currently in negotiations to purchase the assets of the Watertown airport’s current fixed-base operator, AirCo Aviation. If negotiations are successful, Mayor Steve Thorson told the Public Opinion Tuesday the city expects to sign an official lease agreement at the June 19 council meeting.

If the agreement goes through, construction of a new hanger at the airport would be imminent to provide an adequate work space for the mechanics and large planes.

Thorson called the potential opportunity an “exciting” development for Watertown.

“This will be a much larger company than what we’re looking at right now,” Thorson said. “They’re looking at bringing in a charter service that we can take all over the country. They’re looking at fuel stations they need out there.”

Thorson also inferred that the mechanic jobs that would be created would be beneficial for the local economy.

“These are high-paying jobs and are very sought after,” he said. “They’re going to come to a Watertown community that will welcome them. We want to see these people bring their families to town.”

With the ADI airline currently in place and 1 Vision holding service agreements with major airlines, including Frontier Airlines, Thorson said work will be plenty for the potential Watertown branch.

“That’s one of the reasons 1 Vision can come up here because they’ve already got work. They got built-in clientele. People will be seeing all kinds of aircraft come in,” he said.

Thorson maintained that Watertown’s location in a rural and relatively isolated area compared to major airports looks to only enhance the city’s attractive standing for 1 Vision.

“Our position on a map as it relates to the establishment of a fixed-base operation really makes a difference,” Thorson said. “In relation to places like Minneapolis, Fargo, N.D., and Sioux City, there’s really nothing west that does what a fixed-base operation does for quite some distance. This would be an absolute regional draw. A presence that can work on larger aircraft is very much needed in this area.”

Thorson said the public can expect further developments to occur over the coming weeks.

If the lease agreement is signed, it would add to a flurry of summer activity at the airport that includes construction of a new runway and a parking lot expansion.

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