April 9, 2012 The Associated Press
BASTROP, La. – Monroe Regional Airport officials are looking into ways to recapture some of the business from general aviation it has lost through the years.
Interim airport manager Ron Phillips says that the airport has put together a public-private partnership committee to develop a strategic plan for the airport to increase hangar space and amenities for general aviation pilots to increase airport revenues.
The city’s current budget shows the airport has collected just more than $21,000 through the sale of aviation fuel from general aviation pilots. It collects approximately $60,000 per year in hangar rent for general aviation aircraft.
As of the city’s last count about two months ago, there were approximately 55 planes parked at the airport, Phillips said. About 15 of the hangars are designated solely for general aviation craft.
However, over the years, Monroe Regional Airport has lost general aviation pilots who park their planes here. Phillips said several noted the airport has lost about one-third of the craft normally based here, losing a portion of the fuel flowage fees associated with the sale of fuel to the general aviation pilots.
The loss was a result of the increase in hangar rent charged by the local fixed-based operator JPS Aviation, Phillips said. JPS leases most of the hangars from the airport and rents to general aviation pilots.
“When JPS Aviation purchased Monroe Air Center, several pilots stated that their hanger rent increased, therefore they relocated their aircraft to other airports in the area,” Phillips said.
Clyde White, a general aviation pilot for 13 years, said he’s traveled throughout the country and he’s noticed services offered by JPS Aviation at Monroe for general aviation pilots aren’t on par with services offered in other communities.
“The service level needs to be higher, cleaner, more modern-looking, with a high level of service,” White said. While Monroe’s new airport terminal sports a shiny, modern look, White said general aviation pilots go through the fixed-based operator’s facility, operated by JPS Aviation.
“In most communities, typically men come out, meet the airplanes, they greet you, they help you with your luggage. I have not seen that level of professionalism in Monroe,” White said, adding that in Baton Rouge, the fixed-based operator offers loaner cars to pilots rather than have them rent one for the day.
General aviation pilot Jon Haddad said the newly formed Committee for General Aviation is a grassroots effort to develop a strategic plan to revitalize general aviation at the Monroe Regional Airport. It aims to find ways to remove the barriers and conditions that are contributing to the ongoing decline and to increase the number of general aviation aircraft based at Monroe, he said.
Source: BASTROP ENTERPRISE