Friday, February 28, 2014

Airport Needs More Hangar Space

Fairhope, Alabama


Two Fairhope businesses complained to the Airport Authority board about the lack of adequate hangar space at the city's Sonny Callahan Airport.

Alan Boan of Boan Contracting Inc., said his jet suffers significant "hangar rash" due to over-crowding and the deteriorating condition of the aging north hangar.

Damage to insulation and birds nesting in rafters make it difficult to keep his plane -- a "significant investment" -- clean; and he often finds it parked outside by the FBO (fixed base operator), Continental Motors, who currently operates the airport for the city.

Continental Motors, Inc. is a subsidiary of AVIC, the Aviation Industry Corporation of China.

Kel Jones owner  of Fairhope-based Executive Aviation Group agreed that space is inadequate for his three smaller planes as well; and added that additional new businesses can't locate here without more space for their planes.


Boan said he would be willing to finance construction a new 90 X 100 ft hangar himself (for about $600K), but could only afford it if he were allowed to put in a new fueling service ("fuel farm").

Pictured at right is the existing fueling station, operated by Continental Motors.

Boan's hangar would likely be located just east of the State Trooper's helicopter hangar.

Jones said he too would like to expand his business by investing about a million dollars in more hangar space -- including another fueling facility to bring in revenue.

His hangar could be located just south of the rotating beacon. (A third possible site, south near Bishop Rd. was also mentioned.)

Both said saving current hangar fees and being allowed to sell (mostly jet) fuel for income are their primary financial considerations.


Bill Ross, current airport manager for Continental Motors that runs airport operations (via a long-term contract with the Airport Authority) --  opposed any new competing fuel farms, calling his company's profit margins "slim" already.

However, he agreed that more hangar space would be an "asset to the facility."

Two residents who live just west of the airport, near the polo grounds, objected to the new fueling stations and housing larger jet planes on safety grounds. The "risk of contamination" and close proximity to a public school were also concerns.

Boan replied that he was not looking to hurt the FBO -- but needed the fuel farm to finance his hangar for 30 years and it would comply or exceed all safety codes: "A first class facility."

He added the term 'fuel farm' could be misleading since the system would all be above ground and self contained in a 10' X 10' X 27' unit -- trucked in fully-assembled.

The 12,000 gallon tanks would need to be filled about 6 times a year, by tanker trucks. The fuel farm and hangar would withstand 150 mph wind.


Airport Authority Chairman Chuck Zunk suggested the three entities may want to combine efforts on one new hangar instead to satisfy everyone's needs. A shared hangar on land currently leased by Continental was mentioned.

Zunk: "One large hangar versus two smaller ones ... may be better."

All committee members agreed more hangar space is needed and other facilities needed upgrading; but there was skepticism at the prospect of more fuel farms.

Zunk: "We're not obligated to allow more (fuel farms) ...  it would set a precedent (have to allow more) ... ."

Authority members voted to support more hangar space -- but to table the fuel farm issue for further discussion.


The Authority then considered the impending expiration (Nov 2015) of its contract with Continental to conduct airport operations, in conjunction with the many needs of the airport.

Continental has held the FBO lease for the past 29 years. Since the lease has been in effect since 1985, new financial terms are a major consideration as well -- as needed income for the Airport Authority.

Authority members discussed hiring a consultant to help seek new applicants for the FBO contract -- or possibly not even putting out an RFP, request for proposals, if Continental itself came back in 30 days with satisfactory proposals for making the needed improvements itself.

Continental's Ross said his company did want to continue its long term lease as the FBO, and would be back at the next meeting with plans for improvements, growth and expansion.

Zunk scheduled a vote on the RFP matter at the Authority's March meeting.





Anonymous said...

Can someone explain why Fairhope has an airport?

Anonymous said...

Er ... a place for planes to land?

Anonymous said...

The article mentions that a new lease will provide "needed income" for the airport authority. Does that mean the airport is losing money? It would be a shame if the taxpayers of Fairhope are subsidizing an airport for a very small percentage of the public who own their own airplanes. On the other hand I have no issues if it is revenue neutral or better.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure that it is a good idea for a company like Continental which is now owned by the Chinese government to be operating the Fairhope Al. airport.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Captain Obvious. An airport in a city the size of Fairhope seems to be a little ridiculous. This is not a destination.

Anonymous said...

King Kant & Chinese a winning combination!!!!

Here said...

You must not be from around here. We have many buisness travelers that come through here to do business. There are numerous VIP events held at places like the Grand Hotel where people that can afford corporate or private aircraft attend by flying in. It is also a place for recreational pilots to fly in and out of. There are 3 other facilities as such in Baldwin County, located in Bay Minette, Foley, and Gulf Shores.

Anonymous said...

It appears the City is planning on negotiating with a Chinese owned organization behind closed doors with no opportunity for the general public to bid on operations at the airport. I do not think they can do this legally. We will see.