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"Falcon Field flying high, reaching for more"
- From: "Stephen Irwin" <stepheni@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Mon, 17 Oct 2005 03:16:21 -0500
Thursday, October 13, 2005
Falcon Field flying high, reaching for more
Potential helped to lure director
By Art Thomason
The Arizona Business Gazette
The view from Corinne Nystrom's office window at Mesa's Falcon Field can be
"It seems like a sleepy little airport to a lot of people," Nystrom said.
That's quite a misperception for one of the nation's busiest general
aviation airports, where the average number of landings and takeoffs a year
is almost half the number of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
Over the past five years, Falcon Field has averaged 271,766, annual landings
and takeoffs, compared with the more than 560,000 at Sky Harbor.
"A lot of people fly in to Falcon Field to do business and then leave," said
Nystrom, who took the post of airport director in July.
Nystrom is recruiting more businesses to locate around the northeast Mesa
airport's two runways. It's all part of the transition from former World War
II pilot-training airfield to an airport serving corporate aircraft, more
aviation-related businesses, sales-tax revenue and the buying power of
"The increasing costs of flying with fuel prices and rising insurance rates
are becoming prohibitive for the little guy," Nystrom said. "We're seeing
recreational fliers not flying anymore and more multiple ownerships of small
aircraft to share costs."
Those skyrocketing costs account for some of the decline in landings and
takeoffs since 2002, when Falcon Field posted 288,717 operations, its
But Nystrom and city officials say the future of the airport at Greenfield
and McKellips roads looks better than ever with more than 10,000 square feet
of new business and hangar space and dozens of acres of vacant ground
enticing additional tenants. Nystrom wouldn't identify any of them but said
she and Claudia Whitehead, the city's new economic development program
manager for the airport, have met with 75 prospective tenants in recent
The airport's soaring potential helped lure Nystrom, 51, to Mesa from Grand
Junction, Colo., where she managed a municipal airport with commercial
regional passenger service and general aviation.
Within five years, Falcon Field should be producing enough revenue to keep
the airport's operations in the black, she said. She was hired for $88,000.
The airport brought in $134,000 less than its operation budget of $1.2
million for the fiscal year that ended June 30. "If you were to include the
federal and state grants the airport received, you could say we came out
$491,000 in the black," Nystrom said.
"But those grants are for big capital projects, and we can't use that money
to operate the airport. We're trying to run it like a business and we feel
we need to pay our own way.
"Any way you look at it, this airport's in pretty good shape."
But an executive of one of the airport's major businesses said it will be
difficult for Falcon Field to attract another big client such as Boeing or
"The runway, at 5,600-feet, is not long enough to get the corporate business
that Scottsdale and Deer Valley airports get," said Edward Allen, president
and general manager of Marsh Aviation, which rebuilds aircraft under
government contracts. "There will be some new businesses, but the airport
will mostly remain a parking place for a guy that has his own airplane."
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