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"The sky's the limit for Marana Regional Airport"
- From: "Stephen Irwin" <stepheni@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Thu, 11 Aug 2005 06:37:54 -0500
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
The sky's the limit for Marana Regional Airport
By Ryan J. Stanton
The Northwest (AZ) Explorer
Growing up in Maryland, Charlie Mangum lived a life that most kids - or at
least those who aspired to be pilots - only dreamed about.
While his peers were busy building model airplanes and playing with toy
fighter jets, Mangum watched in awe of the real thing: the jets that made
their nest at Andrews Air Force Base, better known as Home of Air Force One,
which was the backdrop to most of his youth.
"Growing up, my dad was a crew chief for F-4s and F-16s. I actually would go
out with him to the airport and he would take me around on the flight line,"
said Mangum, 35. "One of my best memories was going out on the monthly
Tuesday night flights, and I'd get to watch them launch the F-4s at
nighttime. It was just a blast."
Picturing a young Mangum sitting in the front seat of his father's truck,
sporting a bulky set of earmuffs as the loud jets roar into the night - it's
not a sight too far off from his current day job. Even during a busy
morning, Mangum, director of the Marana Regional Airport, still stops his
truck to watch a plane shoot into the sky.
"It's actually a tradition I've even passed on to my son," said Mangum, who
has a 15-year-old son, Stephen. "I drag him around to all the air shows. He
likes the computer aspect of it."
During a Marana Town Council study session earlier this week, Mangum was
expected to give a presentation regarding capital improvement projects
starting up at the airport in September. Those include a new parallel
taxiway, pavement improvements to the airport's entry drive, and electrical
improvements replacing the 20-year-old runway lighting and a new backup
Those projects count for only a small fraction of the many capital
improvement projects expected to begin at the airport within the next year,
thanks to Mangum, who has brought millions of dollars in federal and state
grants to the airport since he came aboard two years ago.
The town, along with Pima Aviation, entered into contracts a few weeks ago
with consulting firm Carter & Burgess to help design and plan a new high-end
terminal and two-story steakhouse at the airport. Construction could begin
within the next 10 months, with two years to completion, said Gary Abrams,
president of Pima Aviation, the airport's major lease holder.
"We're looking for something that's going to be pretty nice, upscale, with a
parking area, and it'll have some community areas," he said. "For the
restaurant, we're planning a lounge and second story observation area. We
want to develop it into a large, commercial, high-end, fun airport, and I
think we can do that."
Three firms interviewed for the project, but Carter & Burgess seemed the
best fit for the town, said Mangum, noting the firm's role in planning the
Scottsdale Air Center. The new terminal will front Avra Valley Road east of
the existing airport facilities. However, the town's future roadway plans
call for rerouting that portion of Avra Valley Road, west of the Central
Arizona Project canal, some several hundred feet to the south.
Mangum said the new facilities will set an architectural example for
development around the airport in the same fashion that the Marana Municipal
Complex is expected to serve as a guiding beacon to the development around
the Town Center. The town council adopted a new airport-specific set of
architecture and landscape design standards at a council meeting in May.
"We're really in a position to go out there and start marketing the
airport," Mangum said.
"That will really be one of my priorities over the next year to start
The town is just finishing a 120-condominium T-hangar project at the airport
because of the large demand for hangar space. The town also recently built
8,340 feet of fencing around the airport.
Marana and Pima Aviation are beginning the design phase for a new corporate
jet center planned on a 34-acre site at the east end of the airport, where a
new fixed-base operation would cater to the corporate world.
Pima Aviation is working to design a tank farm for additional fuel capacity
because, right now, fuel capacity is only 12,000 gallons for each type of
fuel, which Abrams said puts business in "a little bit of a bind."
The town is still trying to acquire 75 acres of state land along the east
side of the airport for future expansion. Mangum said that a couple of
businesses are already interested in leasing the land, including a
completion center that could do interior plane work.
"When all is said and done, I view this as being the Scottsdale airport of
the south - not complete with commercial jets, though," Mangum said. "It'll
be an airport that will support the community and bring jobs. We really view
this as the economic hub for the town of Marana."
One condition that's still a hanging cloud to airport development, though,
is the need for a sewer system, which could see a groundbreaking possibly in
the next five months, Abrams said. Pima County voters approved a $732
million bond proposal last year that included $2.8 million to design and
build a sewer system for the airport.
"We're pushing for that because we can't operate big businesses out there or
large terminal buildings on septic tanks," Abrams said. "That's the next big
Mangum said the town is applying to take part in the Federal Aviation
Administration's Contract Tower Program, which would bring a certified air
traffic controller to the airport to help increase safety.
With everything that's happening at the airport, Mangum said there's no
typical day on his job, but one thing is a given: He's constantly working
with consultants to guide and ensure smart growth around the airport.
As of late June, the town is in the process of updating the Airport Master
Plan and conducting a Part 150 Noise Study and Land Use Compatibility Study.
Mangum said he hopes the town can learn from the pains and problems of other
growing communities with airports.
Over the past several years, the town has made significant improvements at
the airport in hopes of creating a magnet for major commercial and
industrial development. The airport and its surrounding area will be a place
Maranans will find well-paying jobs in the future, Mangum said.
"We have the perfect airport as far as land-use capability planning goes,"
he said. "There are no residential homes and we currently do not have any
incompatible land uses around the airport."
However, a look at the town's future development plan included in its
General Plan shows a sea of possible housing developments that could be
planned around the airport. Mangum fears that could lead Marana down a long
road of problems.
A proposed conceptual plan for land use submitted by the Arizona State Land
Department is currently under review by the town. Mangum said the plan is a
cause for concern because State Land is proposing homes within a mile of the
airport, which he said would hinder its growth.
At a recent council meeting, Mangum overlaid the noise contours that Mesa
uses for its Falcon Field Airport over a map of the Marana Regional Airport,
showing that it wouldn't be compatible if Marana's noise contours are
determined similar. He also laid Scottsdale's 2004 noise complaints over the
"The city of Scottsdale currently receives 1,000 to 1,500 noise complaints
because they allowed residential development to occur too close to the
airport," Mangum said, adding that he knows Marana's airport isn't
comparable to Falcon Field or Scottsdale Municipal Airport right now but
that the town must look to the future.
Marana's future airport land use compatibility map and airport influence
area will be modified over the next year to take into account noise contours
and flight paths. Mangum said the land around the airport should be set
aside for industrial and commercial use only.
"It just doesn't make sense to put future residents in an area where they
will not be happy and constrain the future growth of the airport and our
community," he said.
Mayor Ed Honea said proper development of the land surrounding the airport
is a high priority for town officials who hope to see the airport create
jobs for its residents.
"We're very upbeat on the airport. It's just truly an asset," he said. "It
would be a perfect spot for industrial growth - entities that are not
affected by air noise, whereas housing would be."
Marana purchased the airport from Pima County in 1999. The airport, formerly
known as Avra Valley Airport, is on Avra Valley Road about five miles west
of Interstate 10. As a reliever airport, the Marana airport helps take the
burden of small aircraft traffic off of Tucson International Airport. Using
a reliever airport is especially convenient for corporate jets because it
allows them to get fueled and back into the air quickly.
Handling the development aspect of the airport, Pima Aviation subleases
properties and hangar space to several businesses at the airport. Current
businesses at the airport include Skywords Aviation, Marana Skydiving,
Maricopa Aircraft Service and ATW Aviation.
ATW Aviation, standing for "Against the Wind" Aviation, is a full-service
warbird maintenance and restoration facility that also specializes in
Russian Sukhoi and Yakoleve aircraft. On a recent afternoon, maintenance
workers had Marana lobbyist Michael Racy's Sukhoi plane in for an annual
"We always have stuff in the shop. I can't remember a time when we're just
here twiddling our thumbs," said Melissa Donahue, daughter of company owner
Bill Muszala. "We love what we do. There's not many people who can just play
with old airplanes all day."
Abrams, whose family has been instrumental in developing the airport,
including the Sky Rider Coffee Shop and Tucson Aeroservice Center, the
airport's fixed-base operation, said it's taken a lot of money and effort to
get the airport where it is today.
"We fought Pima County for years to try and let us develop it," he said.
"Marana now kind of sees it as a plus to their town because everybody knows
business and expansion occurs a lot around airports."
Mesquite trees still stand on airport grounds where future expansion likely
will occur. However, a tour of the site today is not without a look to the
past. The first aircraft to ever use the call Air Force One and former
President Dwight D. Eisenhower's constellation plane Columbine still bask
under the sun.
As the town continues to grow, and as more businesses locate in Marana,
future companies will be using aircraft to order and deliver products,
Mangum said. A handful of businesses already use the airport for business
Mangum was recently presented with the President's Award for outstanding
service by the Southwest Chapter of the American Association of Airport
A graduate of the Florida Institute of Technology, Mangum said it was a
summer internship in college at a reliever airport outside of Orlando that
led him to realize that airport management was the field for him. He later
earned his master's degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautics University while
working at Mesa's Falcon Field Airport.
As for seeing through the development of Marana's airport, "I'm very
interested in hanging around for a while," said Mangum with a grin stretched
across his face. "We have the infrastructure here. You couldn't ask for a
better location for an airport as far as land use compatibility is
concerned. What the studies will do is ensure we plan smart and plan for the
future of this area."
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