In a meeting Friday at the Community Development Foundation, airport officials and consultant Allen & Hoshall, spoke to some city and business leaders about the airport’s strategic plan.

“The purpose of the meeting is to talk about what improvements in infrastructure, what services or amenities the airport can do to help each and everybody in the city, the county and the surrounding area to meet their needs or help accomplish their goals,” said Cliff Nash, the airport’s executive director.

“It’s not just about commercial service. It’s also the ability to land and take off aircraft for tenants like UAM, corporate clients and chartered flights; and it’s about different land uses near and around the airport”

Harry Pratt, the president of Allen & Hoshall, said there are opportunities the airport can address now and several long-term possibilities as well.

An urgent issue the airport is addressing now is the lighting on the taxiway, Pratt said.

The Federal Aviation Administration inspects airports yearly to ensure the lighting and signage on runways and taxiways meet certain standards, but the taxiway at Tupelo Regional are inadequate, Pratt said.

“The FAA had some issues in Tupelo, but it’s under design,” he said. “We actually bid it out last year, but the grant fell apart at the FAA level. Cliff got that back on track this year, and now we should be able to bid it this month and then have it done in about four months. That’s the most pressing issue.”

Pratt sees great opportunity for the fixed based operator, or FBO (in this case, Tupelo Aviation Unlimited) to improve services – and revenue – by moving from its current location on Lemons Drive to a spot next to Air Park Road.

Allen & Hoshall envision a modern executive terminal for the FBO, which provides maintenance, fuel, hangaring, flight instruction and other services. A large new hangar, up to 20,000 square feet, would accommodate all but the largest of planes.

“You could put a 737 in there, all but the tail,” Pratt said.

Such facilities at other airports help drive traffic and business to and around the airport, and over the long-term would make a good return on investment. The estimated price tag of moving the FBO to a new facility, along with a new hangar, would cost somewhere around $5 million.

Some of the corporate and private jets landing and taking off at Tupelo Regional cost 10 times as much, and the airport has good traffic with such aircraft.

But it could be more, Pratt said.

“It’s a lot of planning, a lot of money, but I think it would put a nice front door for the city,” Pratt said of a new FBO facility. “You’re competing with other airports, and people are looking for something inviting. The FBO now is landlocked and not easy to get to. You need a bigger hangar because some of the clients can’t get their planes in one now.”

Pratt also said some cosmetic improvements to the main airport terminal and additional landscaping are easy fixes. He also said lighting and parking also could be improved, too.

“The challenge is finding the money to do all this,” he said. “It’s a challenge wherever you go. But there’s plenty of potential here.”

— Dennis Seid