Thursday, October 20, 2011
Airport leaders seek longer runway
By SUE WATSON
The Marshall County Industrial Development Authority board of directors recently met with the airport commission at the John Jewell Aircraft facility to discuss runway expansion with local and regional pilots.
Airport director Justin Hall asked pilots to help get out the word that more are needed to sign their intentions to use the airport, so supporting documents could be submitted for a runway expansion grant application.
John Jewell, who is certified for engine repair, maintenance and inspections in Cessna single and light twin-engine aircraft and certified to modify Cessna aircraft, said a longer runway would help grow his business. He also repairs cylinders and employs seven or eight workers in the engine repair side of the business. Supplemental Type Certifications for aircraft modification are handled by his daughter, Charlotte Saunders.
On the STC side of the business, the company has both national and international customers. Saunders said the runway lengthening would enable larger propeller driven planes to come in for repairs and inspections. She said the private market has fallen off as it goes through business cycles like other businesses do.
“I have seen the cycle many times in general aviation,” Saunders said. “We are the first to go in (to a new market) and the last to come out.”
Saunders said she sees a move toward more corporate aircraft business at the airport and expects the business will move to small props and business jets.
Aircraft are aging, she said, with the average age of planes in aviation at 30-plus years.
“The older things get, the harder it is to keep them in new condition,” she said.
Local pilot Chuck Thomas praised the airport for its airfield, service and interest in attracting business to the area as well as serving local pilots of which there are about six, he said.
Hall praised the Jewell machine shop.
Saunders said as aircraft design moves away from metal to use of composite materials, there will be a good business in composites.
“As technology changes, we try to keep up with technology and install new products,” she said.
Cardiologist Galen Van Wyhe, of Germantown, Tenn., stores his Piper Mirage in a hangar with several other planes and requested the airport make available more hangars. He said he wants his own hangar and would put up funds to get one outfitted for his plane.
He also has a friend who wants to move his propellor-driven Piper maintenance business to Holly Springs, he said.
“I love the Jewels and this is where I want to be,” he said. “I can get in in pretty bad weather. I like to come and just polish my plane and car.”
He offered to provide his friend’s name if the airport is interested in developing a relationship with the Piper mechanic.
“He is recognized enough to have one location instead of two for his business and have customers come to him,” Wyhe said.
He said the Piper mechanic would probably bring in 50 aircraft a year.
“He’s very interested in coming out here and needs a larger space and a reasonable lease,” Wyhe said.
A retired Navy and FedEx pilot also urged the airport to work on expansion.
“If anybody wants to help get the runway extension, we would have to get forms in front of people,” Hall said. “We need pilots.”
Hall suggested pilots and interested parties meet every quarter and brainstorm to see what people and pilots are interested in.
Mobley said in order to apply for runway lengthening more pilots have to say they will use the airport. The number of touchdowns a pilot will expect to make a year is needed to see if the minimum interest is there to go to the Federal Aviation Administration, he said.
Some amenities the airport offers are a fuel farm, a widened runway and lengthened taxiway, new runway lights – all major accomplishments, Thomas said.
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