Two large jumbo jets landed in Tupelo within days of each other in the last week and a half, their final resting place as they were retired by their respective airlines.
One, an All Nippon Airways Boeing 747, is parked behind several other large aircraft, including three other 747s. The other, a Lufthansa Airbus A340, sits near the Tupelo Regional Airport terminal, dwarfing the Saab 340 turboprops that provide commercial air service.
The Lufthansa plane should be near the 747. But there’s no room. And besides, it might have a little trouble getting there.
It’s been about three months since a request by the Tupelo Regional Airport Authority to repair a portion of the old runway at the airport.
And, barring a minor miracle – maybe a major one – it’ll be turned down.
City officials are willing to spend some money on the project, provided Universal Asset Management offers to pay for half the work.
That old portion portion is used by three tenants, but the biggest – in every sense of the word – is UAM, which brings in retired airline jets like those from ANA and Lufthansa to disassemble.
But those big planes can, and have, gotten stuck traversing from the newer runway to the older runway where UAM’s lease-hold area is supposed to be. The pavement is worn, cracked and almost unsuitable for use.
Moving or parking a 390,000-pound plane on it doesn’t help.
The airport says it needs the money to fix the pavement, replacing it with reinforced concrete.
The city thought it found a fix for a little more than $107,000. The work would have fixed a smaller portion of the taxiway, not the larger portion that makes up the $1.2 million request.
While the airport board officially is asking for the fix, it’s quite obvious that it will benefit UAM, which has actively supported it. And why not? It employs 85. When it arrived in 2011, it said it would employ 100 within three years.
But without planes to disassemble, there won’t be jobs available. The implied message: Fix the old runway portion or those jobs could disappear.
UAM says its already invested money for its own infrastructure and plans to spend more. It thinks the old runway is the city’s responsibility, part of the negotiated lease. The city, however, says UAM contributed to the destruction of the old runway and should bear some responsibility.
Opponents of spending tax dollars on the project say money shouldn’t be spent on private enterprise.
There is some merit to that argument, although some may forget that a few hundred thousand dollars was spent for “infrastructure improvements” a couple of years ago on Tom Watson Road. Conveniently, it’s where CarMax wants to locate.
Do we have a double standard here? I don’t know.
I also don’t know what the solution at the airport should be. Neither side appears willing to budge. Which leaves 85 people wondering what happens next.
Dennis Seid can be reached at (662) 678-1578 or firstname.lastname@example.org