By Dennis Seid
TUPELO – For general aviation pilots, including corporate clients, the fixed-base operator at an airport is often the welcome mat to a community.
For Tupelo Aviation Unlimited, the FBO at Tupelo Regional Airport, the welcome mat needed to be replaced.
After five months of work, officials eagerly unveiled a $500,000 renovation and expansion of TAU on Thursday.
“This is the front door to the city,” said airport Executive Director Josh Abramson.
The exterior walls were left alone, but the interior was pretty much gutted. Office space was added upstairs, but the biggest and most visible work was done downstairs.
A new lobby for pilots as well as the public were built, the bathrooms were redone, a conference room was added, a pilots’ lounge was renovated and a dedicated flight planning room was added. A large curved desk also was built in the main lobby where pilots enter.
The talk of the renovation was the conference room, where a horizontal stabilizer from a Boeing 737 with a fitted glass top was made into a conference table.
It was made by Universal Asset Management, the jet disassembly and recycling company that leases space at the airport.
The project was paid with a $300,000 multi-modal grant from the Mississippi Department of Transportation and a $200,000 loan from the Mississippi Development Authority.
An FBO provides services such as fueling, aircraft maintenance, flight instruction and aircraft rental.
“An FBO is a place where pilots get gas, historically,” said David Smith, Tupelo Aviation Unlimited’s manager. “We want to redefine what it is. We want our clients to get the most exceptional service around … all this work only helps to improve our service.”
Said Abramson, “When the people and the decision-makers come to decide whether they want to bring their businesses here, their jobs here or spend their money here, we now have a great presence with this new facility.”