Master plan takes airport to the next level
By David Zaslawsky
Photography by Robert Fouts
In four years, passengers at the Montgomery Regional Airport are likely to see two new air carriers, some new direct flights, more food vendors and a “better travel experience.”
They will see some touches to the interior of the 110,000-square-foot terminal and will probably have already noticed some changes in the baggage area, including television monitors with advertising.
Those passengers probably won’t notice that one of the two runways was doubled in length from 4,000 feet to 8,000 feet or that space was expanded to park planes and that some new corporate hangars were constructed to park some larger aircraft.
Those passengers may or may not notice the 187th Fighter Wing that is stationed at Dannelly Field (at the airport), but that wing will most likely still be in operation thanks to the runway extension.
It’s all part of the 20-year, $98 million airport master plan that has been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, and just as importantly, the Montgomery Airport Authority Board of Directors.
“The airport is the gateway to the city,” said Chester Mallory, chairman of the Montgomery Airport Authority Board of Directors. “When you get off a plane at the airport and head out to Montgomery, it will create an impression of what you have to look forward to. If we can make that first impression (positive), it will enhance the other things in Montgomery.”
A three-person committee from the board is working closely with Montgomery Regional Airport Executive Director Phil Perry and the airport’s Montgomery-based engineering firm, Goodwyn, Mills & Cawood.
“It’s a plan – that’s all it is,” Perry said. “It’s like a budget and it changes. You adjust things based on funding; based on things you didn’t see that suddenly crop up; and you go from there.”
Mallory said he hopes that the passengers will have a better experience and that the airport’s revenue increases. “We don’t know what the outcome is going to be,” he said. “We can only project it.”
The master plan projects enplanements to reach about 245,000 a year in 2030. There were about 170,000 enplanements last year. The terminal, which underwent a five-year, $37 million renovation, is equipped to handle about 330,000 enplanements a year. That equation could easily change if the last remaining legacy carrier – United – comes to Montgomery.
Perry said that he and Chip Gentry, vice president, Air Service Development for the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce and Montgomery Airport Authority, are talking to some low-cost carriers. The Montgomery Chamber is in a partnership with Montgomery Airport Authority to improve services and attract more business and industry to the area.
Perry said it will be difficult to add a direct flight to Washington, D.C. because it is slot-controlled, but he does expect adding a direct flight to Chicago and perhaps a destination on the East Coast – either Philadelphia, New York or Baltimore. New York/New Jersey is the No. 2 destination for passengers flying out of Montgomery while Philadelphia is No. 3 and Chicago is No. 4. Washington, D.C. is the No. 1 destination.
“Those would still be good numbers,” Perry said. “If you averaged a 4 percent gain … the airlines would absolutely be looking at that. They are looking now because of what’s happened (from August-January).The three current direct flights are to Atlanta, Dallas and Charlotte, N.C. Additional airline service and more direct flights will be very likely if the current trend of rising passenger totals continue. There was a 17 percent increase in total passengers from July 2014-Jan. 2015 vs. July 2013-Jan. 2014. That translates into a difference of about 15,000 enplanements and a difference of about 30,000 total passengers. Perry expects that increase to moderate to 3 percent to 4 percent gains a month.
Montgomery’s 17 percent gain is more remarkable because the airport has the same number of flights and carriers. When Perry sees large passenger gains at other airports, there usually are more flights and/or more carriers. Delta did add a first-class service and there are later flights arriving to Montgomery.
“An airline is always looking for the next best opportunity where they can make the most money with that asset,” Sixel Consulting Group President Mark Sixel told the Montgomery Advertiser at last November’s Eastern Airports Conference in Montgomery. “There’s a limited number of airplanes out there,” he said. “They stand on wheels and those wheels can be moved to some other airport.”
Mallory said that some airlines require millions of dollars up front to agree to provide service.
One direction that the master plan takes is an emphasis on additional hangars, focused on corporate hangars needed for larger aircraft. The master plan, divided into four phases, calls for 10 corporate hangars at an estimated cost of $7.2 million. It’s about economic development.
“To land corporate headquarters here, we need to make sure that we’ve got the facilities (so) if they want to locate a corporate aviation asset in Montgomery we can handle that,” Perry said. “I don’t want someone willing to put a jet here and saying, ‘I can’t locate the jet there, so we’re going to move somewhere else.’ ”
Almost all of the hangar space is currently occupied except for one that Perry said is “like a car port for an airplane.” The proposed corporate hangars range in size from 56 feet by 178 feet to 150 feet by 150 feet.
In phase I, which ends this year, two corporate hangars are proposed. There are two more corporate hangars and one 10-unit hangar for smaller planes in phase II (2016-2020); two corporate hangars and two 10-unit hangars in phase III (2021-2030); and four corporate hangars and two 10-unit hangars beyond 2030. Increasing the hangar space will also generate revenue, said Perry, who oversees a $4.1 million operating budget.
Doubling the size of the smaller runway from 4,000 feet to 8,000 feet, which is estimated to cost $14 million, serves several purposes. It will enable all the airport’s current airlines – Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and US Airways – to use both runways; it acts as a backup if the 9,000-foot runway is blocked and is a requirement if the Air National Guard based at Dannelly Field transitions from its current F-16 to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. “We would love to keep that unit here,” Perry said about the 187th Fighter Wing. “They are good for the community – pump a lot of money into this community – and they are an excellent fighting squadron.”
The 187th is the airport’s crash, fire and rescue team, providing personnel and vehicles.
The extended runway does add capacity, although Perry said that is not a problem right now. “There are times when it’s very busy out there and you have to sit and wait 20 minutes to cross a runway because there are aircraft in the pattern,” he said. “There are aircraft that are arriving and departing and there are F-16s taking off and landing. It does add capacity – no question – because you have 8,000 feet of runway.”
The airport will be spruced up inside, changing colors or putting some vinyl wraps on columns. “The airport still looks pretty good, but it doesn’t hurt to change some things,” Perry said. The carpet has already been changed once since the renovation ended in 2006.
There are two food vendors – Subway and Montgomery Muggs – and Perry hopes to add some more choices. Perry and Gentry have been in discussions with a food vendor who operates a mini-food court – four food vendors in a small area, Perry said. He would also like to have a gift shop.
If the increased passenger totals continue this year, Perry is more hopeful that he can make a compelling case to food vendors.
He said that the four TV monitors with advertising and wall wraps in the baggage area will double the airport’s advertising revenue from $40,000 to $80,000 or more. Copperwing Design is leading the effort. “That’s if there are no additional advertising sales,” Perry said, noting that the $80,000 figure is on the conservative side.
“One reason we are revamping baggage claims is that it is a place where people spend at least 10 to 15 minutes waiting for their bags,” he said. That’s a captive audience for advertisers.0
Federal Government Funds
By David Zaslawsky
90 Percent Of Airport Project CostsAlthough the Montgomery Airport Authority has already begun its ambitious $98 million master plan, much of the funding will come from federal and state sources.
Montgomery Regional Airport will be on the hook for about 10 percent of the infrastructure projects, according to Phil Perry, executive director of the Montgomery Airport Authority.
The state helped fund a taxiway extension last year with a $200,000 contribution, Perry said. He expects additional monies from the Alabama Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Aeronautics.
For projects that are Federal Aviation Administration eligible, which are most of the airport’s projects over the next 15 years, 90 percent of the funding comes from the federal government. The remainder of the funds come out of the airport’s operating budget and/or reserve funds.
Perry said that the airport authority paid about $310,000 for a $3.1 million runway pavement project.
He said the airport’s revenue sources are increasing. The largest source of revenue is the parking lot, with about 1,000 spaces evenly divided between long-term and short-term parking. Parking generated about $1.3 million last year. Other sources of revenue are rental car companies, airlines, food vendors, advertising, air cargo and hangars.
Three commercial airlines serve Montgomery: Delta Air Lines with seven flights daily to Atlanta; American Airlines with three flights daily to Dallas; and US Airways with two flights daily to Montgomery. Delta and US Airways were expected to add a flight in the spring, Perry said.0
Officials Target Air Cargo Growth, Revenue
By David Zaslawsky
Air cargo has the potential to become a larger revenue source for the Montgomery Regional Airport.
That’s the problem – the potential. Even if the airport builds a $16 million cargo facility, which is proposed for phase III (2021-2030) of the master plan, it doesn’t guarantee that air cargo haulers will come, said Phil Perry, executive director of the Montgomery Regional Airport. There is no such thing as “build it, they will come,” he said. And a speculative $16 million facility is quite risky. Airport officials do keep in touch with such air cargo haulers as FedEx, UPS and Panalpina. “You need to make sure they are going to come before you do this (air cargo facility),” he said.
The master plan does have that air cargo facility, an area to park the planes; an area to unload the cargo; and an area to park 18-wheelers.
“If we can get that going, it would be a great boost for Montgomery and also for the airport,” said Chester Mallory, chairman of the Montgomery Airport Authority Board of Directors.
Montgomery is an ideal site for air cargo with rail and Interstates 85 and 65, but most of the air cargo goes to Huntsville and is trucked from there, Perry said.
“The airport would either be taking new cargo that’s destined for the state or we would take cargo that might be headed somewhere in the Southeast,” Perry said.
The airport has more planes bringing air cargo, but the tonnage hasn’t grown. “Air cargo is expensive,” Perry said.
Air cargo is forecast to grow from 196,000 pounds in 2010 to 275,000 pounds in 2030. The amount of cargo is restricted by the use of only regional jets at the airport. Two of the proposed new hangars are for air cargo aircraft and there could be additional ones, Perry said, referring to a very flexible master plan of where and how many hangars are built.0
Businesses are Connecting with MGM Passengers
By David Zaslawsky
The Montgomery Airport Authority and executive leadership of the Montgomery Regional Airport recognized a need to create a more engaging space to welcome travelers, one more reflective of the community as a whole. One that showcased Montgomery’s gateway to the world and the world’s gateway to Montgomery.
That’s where Air Launch came in.
A subsidiary of Copperwing Design, LLC, Air Launch LLC, along with representatives of MGM, unveiled a fresh new look for Montgomery Regional Airport’s baggage claim area in March. And it’s only the beginning. Future plans are underway to visually reinvigorate the rest of the terminal.
Not only are approximately 338,000 passengers over the course of a year making connections, but now local businesses and attractions have multiple opportunities to connect with them. And not just with passengers, but with the additional visitors that accompany each traveler – which according to industry calculations, brings the total up to 845,000 visitors annually to the MGM terminal.
Vibrant new graphics that will continue to infuse the airport with energy also provide a captivating way to reach a receptive audience through marketing and sponsorship opportunities. While visitors are already using the new, panoramic map mural to orient themselves to the River Region and its landmarks, digital displays offer an ideal venue for event promotions. Other eye-catching spaces range from wall-size to smaller hanging banners – highly visible throughout the airport – in key areas such as the ticketing lobby, rotunda and gate area.
Already, medical centers, universities, museums/attractions, hotels and other businesses have taken advantage of these opportunities offered through Air Launch, and are being seen not just by visiting passengers, but are also providing reminders of their services to new residents (including members of the military) as well those already living in the River Region.
“Copperwing understands the Montgomery Regional Airport brand firsthand,” said Brian Key, principal and account director for the firm. “So we created Air Launch to leverage our skill in designing exhibits and spaces that would reflect our community. At the same time, we wanted to provide what businesses and organizations would want to see as potential advertising opportunities. It’s something unique, and required a unique ability to make something like this happen.”
For more information on marketing and sponsorship opportunities at Montgomery Regional Airport, call Brian Key at 334.481.1425 or email email@example.com.