City consolidates airport management

By Bob Buckel | Published Saturday, January 5, 2013

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In the wake of Decatur Municipal Airport Manager Mike Sayers’ retirement, the city has placed the facility under the management of Finance Director Brad Burnett.

“Brad will be overseeing the airport in addition to his other duties,” City Manager Brett Shannon said this week. “If the economy continues to recover and a lot of exciting things start happening out there, we may have to re-think that.”

Burnett will likely spend a couple of hours a day at the airport, he said. James Stockton is full-time there, handling maintenance issues for the city.

Sayers, who started in June of 1998, retired at the end of December. He oversaw things like runway construction, maintenance on the airport’s lighting and communications systems, and hangar construction during his 14-1/2 years here. A military veteran, Sayers came to Decatur from Arlington Municipal Airport.

UP IN THE AIR – Fabio Labrada, owner of Decatur Jet Center, is the Fixed Base Operator for Decatur Municipal Airport. The city’s Airport Manager, Mike Sayers, retired at the end of 2012 and that job will be taken over by Finance Director Brad Burnett. Labrada’s company, which just got a new 10-year contract, handles fuel sales and offers flight school and airplane repair services. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

The city also has a fixed-base operator (FBO), Decatur Jet Center, owned and operated by Fabio Labrada, a former Delta Airlines pilot. Labrada sells fuel, operates an aircraft maintenance business and offers flight instruction, and oversees hangar leases. His company leases most of the airport’s new Hangar 600 from the city, as well as about three-quarters of the terminal building.

The FBO contract was recently renewed for 10 years.

The city takes care of the physical plant – lights, radio system and runways.

Shannon said the airport’s business comes mainly from “recreational flyers.”

“When the economy went south in ’08 and fuel was $5 a gallon, the ‘moms and pops’ parked ’em,” he said. “It’s still slow.”

The airport is also home to a glider operation, North Texas Soaring, and a helicopter completion and refurbishment center, United Rotorcraft. It has 60 to 65 airplanes hangared, and its runway is roughly 4,200 feet in length, built with funds from the federal government, granted through the Texas Department of Transportation’s Aviation Division.

Shannon said the city could easily rent out more hangars if it had them, but while federal grants cover 90 percent of the cost of runways, funds for hangars would have to come from the city’s budget.

“Everybody is looking for hangar space right now,” he said.

The airport does have a fence project scheduled this year at a pricetag of about $150,000. It will fence the south part of the airport along U.S. 380, with electronic security gates.

Burnett said the airport is budgeted for $178,206 in expenses this year while expecting to generate $60,000 to $65,000 in revenue. Like all city services, with the exception of water and wastewater, it is not expected to pay its own way.

“It’s kind of like the Civic Center,” Shannon said. “It’s something you just provide. The airport is one of those overall quality of life issues people look at when they’re contemplating moving, like schools, libraries, civic centers, hospitals and other amenities.”

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