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March 27, 2009

Hangar shortage leaves pilots hanging

Photo by George Strawn

By Mary Madewell
Published March 25, 2009

Paris City Council discussed possible long term benefits of Cox Field Airport on Monday, prompted by an advisory committee request for 10 additional airplane hangars.

A 10-year airport plan currently is in the works as is drainage work and runway resurfacing, financed by a $4 million grant from Texas Department of Transportation with a $400,000 match from the City of Paris.

Questions remain whether hangar construction can take place during planned runway renovations.

Airport manager Jerry Richey told council members there are 29 people on a hangar waiting list with some airplane owners having been on the list several years.

The city currently owns 35 hangars leased for $162 a month.

"There is a real shortage of hangars everywhere and some of the people on the list are from out of town," Richey said. "People might move to this area if they had a place to put their airplanes."

Richey said several local owners keep aircraft tied down, not an ideal situation.

"There are weather problems and no one wants to keep their plane on the ramp very long," he said.

Although 10 hangars would not cover the waiting list, Richey said it would be a start.

"Our airport is important and that is why we justified keeping those properties near it in the city limits," Councilman Edwin Pickle said about the council's March 9 action to deny disannexation requests of several property owners located along Airport Road between Cox Field and U.S. 271.

Pickle also referred to a recent Paris Economic Development Corporation report by PEDC executive director Pete Kampfer that calls for efforts to create more air traffic.

"I would like to see it brought back and studied," Councilman Steve Brown said. "We have spent $400,000 to tear down something; let's spend $400,000 to build something."

Pickle earlier referred to the demolition of the Casa Bonita Apartment complex, saying the demolition was necessary but did not have the economic benefit airport improvements would bring.

Brown urged his colleagues to visit Pryor, Okla. to see the impact the airport there has had on that community.

"With the baby boomer generation retiring, there is a big market for airplanes," Brown said. The District 4 Councilman noted residential areas and business districts have developed around the Pryor airport.

Airport board members Glenn Chapman and Billy Copeland contributed to the discussion.

"There have been two airports with no progress in the past 10 years - Clarksville and Paris," Chapman said. He also suggested council members check a TxDOT report about economical impacts nearby airports have on communities in comparison with the Cox Field impact on Paris.

"TxDOT reports a $4.5 million-a-year impact in Paris," Chapman said. The Sulphur Springs airport contributes $32 million and in Gainesville the impact is more than $100 million.

"We could have 150 people employed out there if we had someone pushing it," Chapman said of airport expansion.

Councilman Kevin Kear said he needed documented sources of information about economic impact before he could make an informed decision about hangar construction.

"It is hard for me to understand how 10 hangars would make an impact," Kear said. "I want to see what the payback would be. If we can do 10, can we do 20?"

"I want to support you, but the perception is the airplane is the rich man's toy," Kear said "I need to understand the economic impact."

Pickle answered that the economic reports are out there.

"You will see what has happened to those airports that have had activity there and are trying to grow - that are trying to become progressive versus some of those that have been neglected," Pickle said.

Following more than a 30-minute discussion, Mayor Jesse Freelen asked staff to seek written approval for hangar construction from both the Federal Aviation Administration and TxDOT.

"We need to clear with FAA and TxDOT first and then bring it back to the council," Freelen said. "Once we get documentation, then we will look at it."

Reprinted courtesy The Paris News

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