Phoenix Goodyear Airport is probably best known for the large airliners lined up along the western end of its airfield waiting for repair, repainting or a new home.
What’s not nearly as visible is a small but expanding cluster of aviation businesses.
“There’s a really cool industry there in the aviation and aerospace sector that I think is largely unknown,” said Harry Paxton, Goodyear’s economic-development manager. “Our goal is to keep building that.”
There are many signs that Phoenix Goodyear Airport has begun to rise above the effects of the recession, Goodyear officials and a report say. The number of takeoffs and landings continues to rise, and several businesses, including established firms and aviation-related startups, plan to expand. While a key flight school will leave, officials expect the airport to be a powerful job engine for Goodyear.
Overall, Phoenix Goodyear’s total economic impact is more than $138 million in the Valley, and the airport sustains more than 500 jobs in the region, according to a November 2012 report by the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.
Those totals include the airport’s direct and indirect financial impact on metro Phoenix.
Private employers at the airport reported 218 jobs with a $32.7 million payroll, the report said.
The ASU report examined all three airports managed by Phoenix: Phoenix Sky Harbor International, Phoenix Deer Valley and Phoenix Goodyear.
Bigger impact than Deer Valley
Phoenix Goodyear’s total economic activity is greater than Deer Valley Airport’s, which was nearly $118 million.
Phoenix Goodyear, roughly 2 miles south of Interstate 10 on Litchfield Road, is a general-aviation reliever airport. That means it is designated by the Federal Aviation Administration to relieve congestion at Sky Harbor and provide access for private planes.
While the airport’s single 8,500-foot runway is large enough to accommodate aircraft as big as a Boeing 747, there is no commercial passenger or charter service, and none is planned.
The number of takeoff and landings — an indicator of how busy the airport is — is increasing but is still lower than it was before the downturn began.
In 2007, during the airport’s best year, there were more than 188,000 takeoffs and landings, also called operations, at the airport, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
But the number dropped by 26 percent, to a low point of 138,606, in 2011.
In 2012, there was some improvement, as the airport notched more than 144,000 takeoffs and landings.
“We expect to be there this year or a little bit better,” airport manager Joe Husband said, adding that existing runways and taxiways could handle 200,000 operations. “We’re starting on the road back up.”
Corporate air traffic has helped boost Goodyear’s numbers, Paxton said.
Executives with Dick’s Sporting Goods and Cancer Treatment Centers of America and other companies use the airport to get to their Goodyear locations more quickly, he said.
Airline Training Center Arizona and AeroTurbine Inc. are the two largest users of the airport and account for the lion’s share of its revenue.
While AeroTurbine Inc. plans to expand, the training center must replace a tenant that accounts for 40 percent of the takeoffs and landings at Phoenix Goodyear.
Oxford Aviation Academy, which leases space from ATCA, said it would close by the end of 2013. Oxford announced earlier this year that it will leave Phoenix Goodyear and consolidate operations with its facility at Falcon Field in Mesa.
Replacement is a high priority
Replacing Oxford is a high priority for ATCA and the airport.
ATCA, which trains pilots for Lufthansa Airlines and the German air force, accounts for as much as 45 percent of the airport’s $67.4 million in annual revenue from private companies, Husband said.
City and airport officials say ATCA is close to securing another training academy, possibly from Japan, that will take over Oxford’s facilities.
AeroTurbine, which handles repairs on large aircraft for clients like Frontier Airlines, accounts for up to 40 percent of the airport’s revenue.
The company is in Hangar 52, one of the two largest hangars at the airport, and it has agreed to lease more than 100,000 square feet of additional space.
The company is expanding after picking up contracts from commercial airlines outside the United States. It also recently won a contract with Precision Conversions to convert large jets into cargo planes, Paxton said.
AeroTurbine employed 50 two years ago, but it now has more than 220, Paxton added.
The company performs maintenance and repair work on aircraft more than 12,500 pounds. It also stores airplanes when a company’s lease on the aircraft expires. AeroTurbine also disassembles old planes and sell parts.
The Miami-based company has contracts worldwide, including with airlines in South America and Russia, bringing international attention to the airport, Paxton said.
The colorful planes visible from the west side of the airport are customers of AeroTurbine. The company recently won a contract that will bring some Boeing 757s to Goodyear for conversion into cargo planes, Paxton said.
Some smaller companies at Phoenix Goodyear also plan to expand.
In 2010, Prime Solutions Group Inc., a company designing software to give the missile-defense system more certainty, moved to space near the airport formerly owned by Lockheed Martin.
It took advantage of the airport’s status as a Military Reuse Zone. Companies that relocate to the zones can take advantage of lower real-estate and personal-property taxes.
Prime Solutions Group chose Goodyear because of the tax credits and the airport’s potential, company owner Joseph Marvin said. Prime Solutions has five workers, but Marvin hopes to increase that as much as threefold. In October, the company will hear whether it has been selected for a $1 million second-phase Department of Defense Small Business Innovation Research grant.
“I see nothing but upside for us out here,” Marvin said, adding that the airport’s proximity to Lockheed Martin is helpful.
Lockheed Martin’s Flight Operations Group, which conducts airborne testing and training, is near the airport.
“We’re a technology business,” Marvin said. “I want to see more of that.”
In economic-development strategy sessions with Goodyear, Marvin has said officials have had discussions about a technology incubator and knowledge-based businesses that would have expertise in complex areas, including medicine, transportation, finance and mining.
F-35 may mean more jobs
Goodyear also hopes to land businesses that would provide services to the F-35 Lightning II squadrons that are expected to begin arriving at Luke Air Force Base next year.
“We’ve got potential to double, triple our staff over the next two or three years and continue to expand and look for new horizons that we can tackle, and we don’t need to drive from here to Scottsdale to do that,” Marvin said.
Goodyear officials believe the airport will one day be one of the largest aviation job centers in Maricopa County and possibly the state.
There are 4,000 acres surrounding the airport that officials say will one day feature commercial and industrial businesses.
The area the city has pegged for the jobs hub runs along Maricopa 85 between Cotton Lane and the airport. The area would also include land south of Interstate 10 between Estrella Parkway and Litchfield Road.
When you look at Scottsdale Airpark, it’s 2,200 acres, Goodyear City Manager Brian Dalke said.
“They’ve got 55,000 or 60,000 employees. Well, we’re at 4,000 acres,” Dalke said. “Fifty thousand employees there one day is probably conservative.”
Takeoffs and landings at Phoenix Goodyear Airport
Source: Federal Aviation Administration