published Sunday, February 17th, 2013

Support enthusiastic for Cleveland's jetport

The Cleveland Regional Jetport is northeast of Cleveland, Tenn., on Dry Valley Road.
The Cleveland Regional Jetport is northeast of Cleveland, Tenn., on Dry Valley Road.
Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Airport officials say the buzz still is going strong for the Cleveland Regional Jetport, which has drawn visitors by air and ground every day since it opened in late January.

On Friday, Cleveland's Municipal Airport Authority moved forward with transition plans involving the new airport and Hardwick Field, the city's old airport. In the immediate aftermath of the jetport's grand opening on Jan. 25, promoting the site remains a key objective.

"We've been averaging about two airplanes here a day," said Taylor Newman, director of operations for Crystal Air, which provides operational services for both airfields. "We get a little more activity every day."

The new airport, located on Dry Valley Road in northern Bradley County, also receives plenty of foot traffic, telephone calls and emails, Newman said. The board agreed with Newman's suggestion that the facility should host an open house in late April or early May.

Since the airport's opening, groundwork and increasing services offered there also have been made priorities, officials said.

The airport board approved a four-year contract with Eastern Aviation Fuel to provide aviation gas and jet fuel to the facility. That contract, which has a five-year option for extension, sparked some discussion.

Cleveland City Manager Janice Casteel cautioned that the contract wording should be as unambiguous as possible to prevent any confusion over when the original four-year agreement ends. Casteel cited a recent debate involving the Cleveland City Council and a waste service provider.

The airport's next major steps involve building new hangars with space for 20 aircraft.

Bringing Hardwick Field tenants to the Cleveland Regional Jetport "has been slow going," said Mark Fidler, director of operations and marketing for the new airport. About half of the old airport tenants have committed to hangar space at the new facility; the rest remain undecided or have declined, he said.

Officials announced that Hardwick Field -- already closed to visiting air traffic -- will shut down by June 30.

No date has been set for the sale of the airport property, nor has it been decided if that process will involve open or closed bidding, said Lou Patten, vice chairman of the airport board. He said he expects discussion at the Municipal Airport Authority's March meeting.

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