Friday, March 26, 2004

Business would bring more commuter jets to Falcon Field


More big jets will be flying in and out of Falcon Field if a Myrtle Beach company is successful in relocating to Peachtree City.

Chippewa Aerospace, which updates avionics controls in commuter jets, is in negotiations with the Peachtree City Airport Authority about incentives for it to locate at the former Hunting facility, a large hangar just off the airport property that has been vacant for years.

Chippewa services Canadair Regional Jets and Embraer Regional Jets with 50-, 70- and 90-seat models. The company also outfits Braeisilia turbo prop planes.

“We design the wiring that makes the boxes talk to each other,” said Julie Stanley, Chippewa vice president. Those “boxes” are the avionics which send signals from the cockpit to control the aircraft.

The company has contracts to service planes for U.S. Airways Express, Mesa Airlines and SkyWest. It is also seeking a contract to service the jets for ASA, a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines, and that would add 300-plus planes to the company, Stanley said.

The company anticipates having 35-40 employees to start with and working towards a capacity for 80 employees eventually, Stanley said. She said no concrete numbers were available yet on how many planes the company would handle in a given week or month.

Airport Authority Chairwoman Cathy Nelmes said the planes Chippewa services are no bigger than some currently flying in and out of Falcon Field. She also noted that the planes won’t be doing a lot of flying while at Chippewa, just flying in for service and flying out once finished.

“It’s not bigger than the ones we service right now, they’ll just be coming in more often,” Nelmes said, noting that the runway’s length limits the type of aircraft that can land at Falcon Field, which she said is a good thing.

If Chippewa locates here, the airport will benefit financially with through-the-fence access fees and increased fuel sales if the company relocates here. But company officials say they need to add more to their bottom line for the project to make business sense.

So the authority will consider offering a fuel “commission” for sales above a certain amount each month that are directly attributable to Chippewa.

“It would be a huge asset to Fayette County” if Chippewa relocates here, Nelmes said. But ultimately, the airport’s success is not dependent on the deal, she added.

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