Airport could see new charter air service

ALPENA — The Alpena County Board of Commissioners Airport Committee voted 3-0 to agree to a plan that could lead to a new charter air service opening and operating out of one of the hangars at the airport during its meeting Thursday.

Before the project can move forward there will need to be some shuffling in past lease agreements.

Airport Manager Steve Smigelski said the hangar was built by Besser Company on county owned property. Besser has requested to be released from its final 16 years of the 25 year lease. He said Besser no longer has a plane and has no use for the hangar, but it leases a portion of it to Brad Shriner, who wants to remain a tenant. Shriner and another local partner have purchased a plane and are in the process of getting it ready and certified to carry paying passengers.

Before doing so, however, he wanted a commitment from the county that he would be able to continue to lease the hangar after Besser relinquishes its rights. Smigelski said he believes either the current lease with Besser will be transferred to Shriner, or a new lease will be done to replace it.

“Basically instead of paying Besser the lease payment and then Besser paying the county, he will pay the county directly,” Smigelski said.

Shriner is owner of Aviation Express. He said the new plane has a passenger occupancy of six people and once it is ready to fly and the needed permits are received from the Federal Aviation Administration, he should be able to start booking flights.

“We got the plane and that is the biggest thing,” he said.

Smigelski said there is a demand for more charter services at the airport. He said it will help to boost fuel revenue, as well as landing fees.

“I think this is a good thing and something that we need,” he said.

Any transfer of the current lease or a draft for a new one would need to be approved by the prosecutor’s office to be sure the language and terms are legal.

In other business:

∫ the plan for NASA to move a portion of the spacecraft that is to be used in the first manned mission to Mars though Alpena has been canceled. Details on why the plan was changed have not been released.

∫ the adjustment enplanement numbers for 2017 were released. An automated system error counted too many enplanements in Alpena and dropped the December total from 794 to 767. The new total for the year is 10,822, which is still enough for the airport to get its $1 million subsidy from FAA.

∫ an A-10 jet that made an emergency landing at the airport in July was finally removed from the facility from last month. The plane was stripped down to it fuselage before being lifted with a crane and placed on a truck. Smigelski said the jet was taken to Hill Air Force Base where it will be repaired. The jet made the landing after a series of system failures occurred during a training exercises at Camp Grayling.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews.