Business

Airport competition increases

After 25 years as the only general aviation services provider at Spokane International Airport, Spokane Airways is significantly downsizing, but not by choice, said John Chastek, vice president of operations.

At the same time, the airport board is poised to approve a lease agreement Wednesday for XN Air LLC, which became the airport’s second general aviation services provider in January 2006.

Spokane Airways was forced out of a half-dozen buildings on the north end of the field it has long leased for flight training, aircraft refueling, and maintenance and charter operations. The structures have to be torn down because they’re within the line of sight of the new air traffic control tower set to begin operating in late summer.

Over the weekend, the company relocated into smaller, cramped quarters at the south end of the airfield near Pilot Drive, Chastek said. He maintains his company’s leases stipulated that the airport would build new facilities for it and pay for its relocation.

But the board disagreed. It asked for bids to develop the south end of the airfield. Spokane Airways and XN Air submitted the only bids.

The board picked XN based on several criteria, including the fact that it offered to use its own financing to build a new terminal and hangar alongside its new maintenance facility. Spokane Airways had asked the board to provide 20-year amortized funding of $1.5 million to construct new quarters.

Spokane Airways feels it’s being treated unfairly. It’s scrambling to keep up operations even though it has lost nearly all its hangar, operations and maintenance space. And pink slips have been issued to four of eight aircraft mechanics, Chastek said.

“We’re being pushed out. We believed we were going to be relocated at the airport’s expense, within the terms of our lease agreements” to an area of equal size, said Chastek. The company employs about 100.

But XN Air President John Hale said he thinks there are enough customers to go around.

“It’s always been my contention that there’s enough business for us both. When there’s competition, operations of the airport will be more efficient. And it will drive the prices on everything from fuel to repairs to market levels. In doing so, it’ll make this a more attractive destination for aircraft and should increase the amount of traffic at the airport,” Hale said.

General aviation service providers serve non-commercial aircraft. They can provide such services as aircraft fueling and maintenance, charter service, hangar rental, flight training and lounges where pilots and passengers can check weather and e-mail.



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