AZTEC — Aztec City Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved the extension of a lease agreement with the Arnold family to continue management of the city’s airport.
The extension gives the city until Sept. 20, 2014, to fill the manager position.
The former airport manager, Mike Arnold Sr., was killed in a plane crash in May. Twice the mayor of Aztec from 1998 to 2001 and again from 2004 to 2008, Arnold lived on the grounds of the Aztec Municipal Airport with his wife, Patricia Arnold. She continues to live there.
After his death, his wife and son, Mike Arnold Jr., took over the airport’s operations.
The city attempted to find a permanent replacement, but a suitable candidate has yet to be found, said Aztec City Manager Joshua Ray. According to a staff summary report, an advertisement for the position was placed in The Daily Times, and inquiries were made with the New Mexico Pilots Association to attract a candidate. The city received no responses by the Aug. 15 deadline.
“What we’ve done, we agreed to do a year-by-year extensions with the city,” said Mike Arnold Jr. “It will be up to my mom if she wants to continue managing the airport. She’s definitely committed to the next year.”
Mike Arnold Sr. was killed on May 18 when his Peck Norman O Peck P-1 single-engine airplane crashed and was destroyed during take-off from the Aztec airport, according to a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board. The 62-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene.
According to the report, Mike Arnold Sr. purchased the plane about six months before the accident. NTSB investigators found that he complained before the accident that fuel from the amateur-built plane was pooling on the floor of the cockpit.
Mike Arnold Jr. said he did not know about those complaints before the release of the state’s preliminary report.
“The (Peck Norman O Peck) single-craft airplane was a kit-built aircraft my dad purchased from someone in Truth or Consequences,” he said. “He hadn’t had the plane for very long, three or four months or so.”
For now, the Arnold family will continue daily oversight of airport operations. Mike Arnold Jr. said continuing with the airport is up to his mother.
Without commercial investment from an airline, the airport is not seeing sizable profits, but it is stable. Profits from rent on hangars and fuel sales are gathered by D&M Enterprises, which Mike Arnold Sr. started in the early 1990s, his son said.
“All those profits go back into maintaining and operating the airport,” he said.