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"Chattanooga Airport neglecting maintenance"



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

TAC Air: Chattanooga Airport neglecting maintenance
By Mike Pare
The Chattanooga (TN) Times Free Press


A long-simmering dispute between the Chattanooga Airport and a business
operating at Lovell Field boiled over Monday before the airport authority
board.

A TAC Air official charged that airport officials are so concerned about
challenging her company's business that they are neglecting maintenance at
the facility.

"I think the airport is getting away from the fundamentals of airport
operations," said Pam McAllister, the company's general manager in
Chattanooga.

She said grass hasn't been cut, airport aprons aren't being swept and public
bathroom doors and fixtures are broken.

"That's what the public sees when they fly from Chattanooga Airport,"
McAllister said.

However, airport officials said they're meeting regulatory requirements, and
Lovell Field has the staff it needs to keep up the airport.

"We cut our grass. We push our snow. We change our light bulbs," said
Airport Chief Executive Terry Hart.

Dan Jacobson, the Airport Authority chairman, said he's disappointed the TAC
Air official isn't happy.

"They're a valuable partner that provides a valuable service at the
airport," he said.

TAC Air, which provides fuel and maintenance for private airplanes at the
airport, has been locked in a dispute with the airport since 2010. That's
when Chattanooga Airport officials unveiled plans to build up to $10 million
in facilities for corporate tenants and personal aircraft.

Airport officials said the facilities were needed because of complaints
about TAC Air. But TAC Air claimed that Lovell Field officials were trying
to shut down its business and using taxpayer money to do so.

McAllister said Monday the airport "has so much money to pay for everything
else," but not on those things that are aimed at pleasing customers.

She also said that airport officials are intentionally excluding TAC Air
from business and social events at the airport, even as the airport pursues
its clients.

Hart said he has no intention of excluding anyone.

McAllister added that TAC Air continues to service 90 percent of the general
aviation customers at the airport despite the airport's new operation, which
is run under contract by Wilson Air.

She also denied that fuel prices are cheaper at the airport due to
competition. McAllister said that prices have dropped because of market
conditions.

The Airport Authority is projecting a loss of more than $1.1 million over
the first two years of operation for its general aviation center.

The first year's loss of $655,000 was more than twice the original forecast
for the facility.

Earlier this year, the airport agreed to move ahead with building even more
hangar space.

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