By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Even as commercial air service is threatened, some have questioned why Tupelo Regional continues to push for a 650-foot extension of its runway.
“The runway extension is a 10 percent increase in length, which increases our range to other markets, or airports,” said Josh Abramson, the airport’s director. “Memphis is a reduced hub. Atlanta is a congested hub. Tupelo needs to fly somewhere else and this extension will give us more options.”
Abramson said commercial air service also isn’t the end-all and be-all for the airport, insisting the airport authority has laid a foundation for business growth.
“The authority has approved a new general provisions, rule and regulations and, most importantly, minimum standards for commercial activity. We want the airport users to have the best aviation experience at Tupelo Regional Airport. A solid minimum standard will help that cause.”
Abramson added the airport soon will announce the fact it will accept proposals for a flight school and airport-wide vending service.
On the job since April 2010, Abramson said other priorities at the airport have been addressed.
“We also have been making many repairs to the airport’s infrastructure and equipment,” he said. “The administration building is getting a much-needed roof and air conditioning. We are repairing and recertifying generators, ATC radios, safety equipment and grounds equipment. The list of repairs is very long.”
An airport-wide training regimen and preventive maintenance program also have been established, he added.
Meanwhile, the arrival of Universal Asset Management earlier this year has been a “great addition,” Abramson said.
The Memphis-based jet leasing and recycling company is moving its operations from Arkansas to Tupelo, with plans to add 100 jobs in three years. It signed a 20-year lease in which it pays the airport authority $85,000 in each of the first two years. In the third year, it pays $105,000. From years four to 20, it will pay $110,000 yearly, with a 1.25 percent increase each year, starting the fifth year.
It has landed two jets since April to be recycled, but it’s unclear how many more are expected the rest of the year. Officials said they’re working on several deals.
“First and foremost they are bringing a thriving business into Tupelo,” Abramson said. “That means jobs and revenue for the airport and city. Their operation also brings investment bankers and airline executives to Tupelo. On the financial side, they are covering the $1.84 million note for the old national guard facility. UAM is a great addition to the airport and to Tupelo.”