By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Nearly six weeks after getting its airplane maintenance operations up and running at Tupelo Regional Airport, Nashville-based Airline Maintenance Service has won the management contract to oversee the airport’s fixed-base operator, or FBO.
Tuesday night at its monthly board meeting, the airport authority voted unanimously in favor of AMS over another contender.
In January, the board said it wanted a private company to run the operations of the FBO, Tupelo Aviation Unlimited. The FBO provides services such as fueling, aircraft rental, hangar rental, tie-downs and parking.
Airport Executive Director Josh Abramson has said the airport would save money by privatizing the FBO, paying AMS a fee to cover the staffing and management of the operations.
“The emphasis is that we’re getting a private business to manage the FBO’s operations, giving itself more flexibility than we as a government entity has,” Abramson said Tuesday. “Yes, there is an element of cost-saving, but this also allows the airport to concentrate on what it needs to be doing.”
The eight employees of TAU aren’t guaranteed a job, but AMS’ business development manager Erick Larson said each would be interviewed and “given every opportunity” to work for the company.
Several of them attended Tuesday’s meeting.
TAU Director David Smith said he looked forward to working with AMS and “making the transition as smoothly as possible.”
While not assured of a job either, Smith said AMS’ values appear to align with his. He’s also spoken extensively with his fellow employees.
“I’ve assured them that change is not always for the worse,” he said. “I think we now have a positive attitude about the good that can come out. Everybody seems to be excited about the change and what it can do for the airport and for the city.
AMS President Corey Gillard said the general aviation climate in the region is better than many other areas, a reason why his company opened its Tupelo maintenance shop for light turbine engine plane.
In Nashville, many of those customers cross over to that FBO, and Gillard said he envisions the same thing happening here.
“The FBO is a natural extension of our business,” he said.
AMS and the airport will discuss when the management contract begins, but Abramson said he expects it to kick in by June.
• Also Tuesday night, the board opted not to discuss a suggestion by the Elvis Presley Fan Club to change the airport’s name.
Abramson said there was “not much action to take. We’re glad to have the fans’ initiative, but an airport name change is not something we’re considering today with all that’s going on. But it’s something we can address later.”
• The runway extension project – which will add another 650 feet to the north end of the runway – is about 36 percent complete and about 2 percent ahead of schedule.
• Passenger boardings through March are down 23 percent compared to a year ago.