Slowly, methodically, and partly through an emphasis on finding the right leadership, Clarksville Regional Airport on Outlaw Field Road has been positioning itself as a self-proclaimed “new front door for business in middle Tennessee.”
When you step back and look at what’s happened at this airport on the north side of town, you might agree that it’s a slogan that fits.
Now that there are new facilities and revenue streams at the airport, promoting it all has been a key task for Airport Director John Patterson and his staff, whether it be through the new promotional video that’s been produced, or through public events that the new airport terminal is now hosting allowing we, the people, to see the modern Clarksville airport for ourselves.
Kudos to the talented, volunteer-based Regional Airport Authority for seeing that the grand plan for Clarksville Regional is executed. This board currently includes Sammy Stuard, chairman; Charlie Koon, vice-chairman; James Halford, secretary; and members Charles Hand and Gary Mathews. Charlie Koon is the newest member, taking the place of the late Ed Rufo who passed away last fall. Ed is missed, and his commitment is being carried on.
Step inside this still-relatively-small, but growing, and, increasingly professional Clarksville airport, and you find that today it is operated by a staff of 10 employees, including “one on-call line person, one part-time line person, three full-time line persons, two airfield maintenance persons, one (Corporate Social Responsibility) CSR/Facilities Sales person, as well as one assistant manager and myself as airport director,” Patterson said.
Patterson explained that, it is the responsibility of all line personnel to direct, park, and service all aircraft as well as meet all crew and passenger needs and expectations, either upon arriving or departing Clarksville Regional. The employees who work in this department are Michelle Schweers, Joshua Landor, Nick Blalock, Emily Kristoff and Jennifer Brooks.
The airfield maintenance staff’s primary responsibility is to “maintain the safe working order of all equipment and facilities on the airfield” as well as maintaining the 500-plus acres devoted to Clarksville Regional, and several miles of fencing. The employees in this department are Mike Paiser and Jerry Smith.
Sarah Taylor works as the CSR and Facility Rental coordinator and is responsible for all facility rentals, contracts, and coordination of events as well as ensuring customer service and processing customer payments.
Airport Assistant Manager John Atnip is charged with ensuring correct and accurate recordkeeping as well as ensuring the overall safe and efficient airfield operations. “John makes sure the employees have all the tools needed to make sure customers only see an effortless system that meets and exceeds their needs every time they travel through Clarksville Regional,” Patterson said.
“As the Airport Manager I ensure all the working parts of the airport are done correctly and efficiently under the oversight of the Airport Authority. Additionally, I maintain relationships with (Tennessee Department of Transportation)-Aeronautics and the Federal Aviation Administration to maximize the amount of eligible grant funding used to offset both the cost of operations and to maximize the grant funds needed to correct all safety and compliance issues with the airfield,” he said.
Among projects underway at Clarksville Regional, the airport is currently completing an apron project and opened bids this week for a new hangar project to be completed by winter 2015. Together these two projects are being funded by three separate grants totaling $4.5 million. The local match for these grants is only 5 percent of the overall grant amount.
Patterson said the apron project will bring the ramp weight-bearing capabilities up to the runway specifications and will increase the parking area in size to accommodate additional and larger aircraft. “The new hangars will bring more revenue to the airport as we increase our tenant base.”
That’s particularly important when you consider that, Clarksville Regional currently has a waiting list of over 40 aircraft waiting to come to Tennessee’s fifth-largest city.
This fall, Patterson said, the local airport expects to receive federal discretionary funds that were not previously anticipated to arrive until fiscal year 2017.
“Fortunately the FAA has indicated that these funds for our runway overlay project should be available in October 2015,” he said. This extensive project includes a federal standards correction of a dip in the touchdown zone of the primary runway, relocating the taxiway to give 300 feet between runway centerline and taxiway centerline in accordance with FAA safety standards, remarking the runway and taxiways and re-signing the entire flight side with standardized FAA signage and paint markings, overlaying the entire primary runway surface to replace old asphalt currently in poor condition, and replacing the airfield lighting system with LED lights as an energy cost-saving measure.
Patterson said this nine-month project is already designed and “shovel ready” at an estimated cost of $10 million. The local grant match will be 5 percent, totaling $500,000.
“I’m pleased with what we have been able to accomplish here in just a few years, moving toward the goals outlined in the airport strategic plan. Upon completion of the apron, T Hangar, and runway projects, in addition to the already completed terminal project, the Clarksville Regional Airport will be in complete compliance with FAA safety standards utilizing roughly $15 million in aviation grant dollars while simultaneously increasing the airport’s capabilities for decades to come,” Patterson said.
For Clarksville to remain competitive in business development on a global scale, it cannot rely solely on nearby Nashville International Airport as its air transportation source.
It must serve as that “new front door” for this community and the entire region.