The SPLOST vote will be held Nov. 7 in conjunction with municipal elections in Rome and Cave Spring.
Funds totaling $899,210 have been earmarked in the SPLOST package for a new 13,600 square foot hangar building to house corporate aircraft which ferry executives into the community, but in the past have typically had to leave Rome and fly on to the Peachtree-DeKalb or the Fulton County Airport in the metro Atlanta area to hangar the aircraft overnight for reasons related to security and insurance requirements. “They’ll spend anywhere from $300 a night all the way up to $2,500 a night,” Mathews said. “If it’s left outside they have to pay their insurance carrier so much extra for every night so they try to avoid that.”
In addition to corporately-owned jets, the airport is regularly a stopover for commercial operators such Flex Jets/Flight Options, Net Jets, Wheels Up and Georgia Jets.
This past Wednesday, just prior to the Wings Over North Georgia air show, Airport Manager Mike Mathews said he would have put a Net Jets corporate aircraft in the hangar at $800 a night with no problem. “It was so big they had a flight attendant on it,” Mathews said.
Airport Commission Chairman Chip Hood said in addition to lost revenue from not being able to lease hangar space, the airport also loses fuel sales when the corporate aircraft overnight elsewhere.
The pitch proponents of the hangar made to the SPLOST Citizens Advisory committee estimated a hangar could generate between $55,000 and $80,000 in annual revenue from overnight stays.
The hangar could also serve as a quasi-speculative building for an aircraft-related industry. “It will be in some ways who gets there first,” said Rome Floyd Chamber President Al Hodge. “Perhaps it would be the overnight shelter for jets initially, but we would be actively marketing it for multi-purpose aviation-related use.
Hood said if a hangar was built and an industrial prospect decided it wanted the building two weeks later, the airport would build another one. “That’s just how it works,” Hood said.
Mathews said the airport was getting a lot of looks from prospects prior to the recession. “The recovery was very slow, but now we’re starting to see a big upswing and I do know that with the runway extension, it’s going to get their attention, so we want to be ready,” Mathews said.
If the SPLOST package is approved by Rome and Floyd County voters, the proposed building would be located close to the Georgia Northwestern Technical College Aviation building, just to the north of the main terminal on the airport grounds.
An Appalachian Regional Commission grant of $300,000 funded major infrastructure improvements to the airport grounds that were completed several years ago. The purpose of that grant was to help attract facilities such as the proposed hangar or aviation related industry.
A 2013 SPLOST project to extend the main runway at the airport is currently in the engineering phase and is expected to go to construction in 2018. The final price tag for that project is estimated at $5,761,000.
That project is also tied, in large part, to insurance requirements for corporate aircraft which need 7,000 square feet. That number is particularly important for aircraft to be able to accelerate and get off the ground safely with a full payload of passengers and fuel.
Fuel sales are a critical part of the revenue stream for the airport. Mathews said the typical corporate jet will take on anywhere from 200 gallons to 1,000 gallons of Jet A fuel, which is currently selling for $4.24 a gallon
Neither the 2017 hangar project nor the 2013 runway extension was designed to significantly increase traffic in and out the airport themselves, but to make the airport a safer place to do business. “Mathews said a number of years ago a company that was in the manufacturing sector looked at locating on the Russell Airport campus but required a 7,000 foot runway for its aircraft. “When we do go to 7,000 feet that will open doors for us for different types of aviation-related industry that would come to our airport,” Mathews said.
Hood believes once the runway extension is completed and a new hangar is built, “I think the airport really will take off.” Pun intended.