Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Deal in works for management change for Yeager Airport (KCRW) general aviation operation

A Charleston, S.C., aviation management firm is interested in taking over Yeager Airport’s general aviation operation, now managed by long-time lessee Executive Air.

On Wednesday, two top officials with Hawthorne Global Aviation Services met with members of Yeager’s general aviation committee and Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper to talk about their company and its tentative plans for operating the private aircraft facility at the Charleston airport.

The company has signed a letter of intent with Executive Air President Scott Miller to take over Executive Air’s 10-year lease on the general aviation facility, also known as a fixed base operation, or FBO, but needs approval from Yeager’s governing board to complete the deal.

Hawthorne Global Aviation Services currently manages FBOs at MacArthur Airport on New York’s Long Island, Cobb County International Airport near Atlanta, Executive Airport in Chicago and Chippewa Valley Regional Airport at Eau Claire, Wis.

“We’ve been in discussions with Scott Miller for several years, and we really like what we see here,” Bryon Burbage, Hawthorne’s president and chief financial officer, told Carper and members of the general aviation committee. “We’ve come to the point where we want to spend time with you guys and see if what we’re planning works for you.”

“It’s a robust operation,” said William E. Harton, Hawthorne’s senior vice president for development, of the Executive Air facility. “We want to make sure it keeps its character, but we would be in a position to help add to its infrastructure.”

Miller and Executive Air’s chief financial officer, Danny Kennedy, would continue to oversee day-to-day operations, he said, using the FBO’s current employees.

“We would also honor existing agreements between Executive Air and other parties at least until they naturally expire,” Harton said.

In return for taking over Yeager’s FBO, “are you offering anything, money-wise, to the airport?” Carper asked Burbage and Harton.

“There’s nothing specifically carved out for the airport,” Burbage responded.

“That’s the most absurd thing I’ve heard,” Carper replied.

Ed Hill, president of the Charleston airport’s governing board, said the Yeager board has the option of running the FBO on its own, should a lessee want out of its lease agreement.

“What I want to know is what you have to offer the airport that is superior to us running the FBO ourself?” Hill asked.

“Years of experience operating FBOs, higher liability coverage” and the clout to buy fuel and supplies at lower prices, Harton replied. “We’ve looked at facilities where municipalities took over FBO operations, and the level of service dropped off. We have been asked to take over some of these FBOs.”

General Aviation Committee Chairwoman Karen Haddad said that for Hawthorne’s proposal to be considered further, the company needs to have its attorney “write up the terms of a proposed lease and send it to our attorney. After that, we can get back together again.”

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