Albany Municipal Airport may finally get a "fixed base operator" next year if negotiations now under way bear fruit. It's been without one since December 2010, and while volunteers covered the office for part of that period, no one was around when I stopped by last Saturday.
City transportation supervisor Jon Goldman, who oversees the airport as part of his job, hopes to have the new operator in place by February, which should help give this city enterprise a boost. To prepare, the city intends to remodel the space that served as the airport office and lounge. It told two pilots using parts of that space for their businesses -- flight instruction in one case and aerial advertising and spraying in the other -- that their monthly leases would not be renewed and plans to resettle them in another part of the building.
I talked to Goldman and his boss, public works director Mark Shepard, after learning about what was described to me as a contentious meeting of the Albany Airport Advisory Commission last week. The discussion turned on the role of the commission as an advisory group, not one to handle management of the airport. The way Shepard put it in an email, "Many commission members do help out by providing staff with input and information on things that need attention at the airport. Staff does our best to address these issue as they come up. I think this has blurred the understanding of the commission’s role. To help clarify roles staff will work up some proposed changes to the current AMC (Albany Municipal Code) language and present it to the Airport Advisory Commission before taking it to Council."
Meanwhile, the FBO negotiations continue, says Goldman, who gave commission members a draft of the proposed lease. The prospective new operator, now operating out of an airport in the greater Portland metro area, would plan on providing, among other things, a flight school as well as aircraft mechanical service and courtesy cars for arriving air travelers.
Albany's relationship with its small general aviation airport and the pilots keeping planes there has been strained from time to time. In the 1980s there was even talk about selling the acreage for commercial development, but then the council decided to keep the airport going and created the advisory commission to help with that idea. (hh)