By Kyle Peveto
Changes at the A.L. Mangham Jr. Regional Airport could bring more traffic to the airfield, city of Nacogdoches officials say, and more changes are coming.
Over the past year, according to Deputy City Manager Victoria LaFollett, the city has taken over fuel sales and has hired a full-time airport manager, with the goal of creating a self-sufficient airport that can serve small businesses and pilots in the area.
Two items on the Nacogdoches City Commission’s agenda tonight focus on the airport. Commissioners will:
* Discuss a grant from the Texas Department of Transportation Aviation Division that will pay $50,000, half the cost of installing two new 12,000-gallon fuel tanks at the airport, which will allow pilots to pump their own fuel. Self-service fuel could lower the cost of fuel to pilots, and could encourage more fuel sales at the airport, LaFollett said.
* Consider whether to take a political stance against a U.S. Senate bill that could harm general – noncommercial – aviation.
Built in 1950 with occasional upgrades since, the airport has one 5,000-foot-long runway used mainly for small planes and business jets. It features a recently revamped pilot’s lounge with wireless Internet service and 60 hangars built by local pilots and small businesses who lease the ground beneath the structures from the city.
For the past few months, the city has considered several ideas to increase airport usage, from partnerships with the Nacogdoches Convention and Visitors Bureau to encourage tourists to fly themselves into the airfield to fly-ins – small promotional parties at the airport with free fajitas or pancakes.
“We think we’re going to come out with some really novel concepts there to try to generate even more use for the airport,” LaFollett said.
Eventually, the airport could run itself with revenue from fuel sales, according to Jack Sparks, the city’s director of finance, without taking money from the city’s general fund, except for large-scale improvements.
“We’ve already seen a marked increase in the amount of fuel sales we’ve had since we took it over in January,” LaFollett said. “We want to fine tune that, and we want to work with local pilots in regards to programs that we can do with them. (We will) look at the possibility of discounts, like a merchant would do.”
According to AirNav.com, a Web site that tracks fuel costs, the airport currently has cheaper fuel than several local airfields with which Nacogdoches competes. Monday’s price of $4. 25 a gallon for aviation gas was 24 cents less than the Angelina County Airport, but it was 60 cents more than the Panola County airfield.
LaFollett expects the self-service tanks to decrease the consumer’s fuel cost.
“Our prices are going to fluctuate as the market fluctuates,” she said. “We were able to negotiate a very good contract with Shell, and we’re pleased with that. But now that we’re going to self-serve, it’s going to be even less.”
U.S. Senate Bill 1300, which would restructure the funding of the Federal Aviation Administration, would charge noncommercial pilots a $25 surcharge for each flight and would increase fuel taxes. The city’s airport advisory board recommended that the city commission sign a resolution opposing the Senate bill.
The president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association said on the group’s Web site that the user fee would be the end of general aviation “as we know it,” and the city’s proposed resolution states that the bill is bad for the growth of Texas’ economy.
“General aviation is vital to the continued growth and prosperity of farmer(s), small towns and rural areas in the state of Texas,” the resolution states.
Tonight at 6, the commission will also consider an agreement with East Texas Senior Living Inc. If approved, the company, which is building Timber Springs for senior citizens, would make payments to the city in lieu of taxes. Because the company is a non-profit, it does not have to pay the city, according to City Manager Jim Jeffers.
“Part of (the reason for the agreement) is just being a good corporate neighbor and partly because of the paving of Maroney Drive (leading to Timber Springs),” Jeffers said. “It’s also a philosophy of helping to pay for their fair share of the services their residents expect.”
Kyle Peveto’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: DAILY SENTINEL