The Mobile Airport Authority is waiting for the results of a feasibility study, expected next month. This possible move has received a lot of attention, in part because it's so unusual. According to a story in al.com, the usual trend is for airports in a downtown area looking to move to the suburbs, where there's more room for growth. Indeed, that's what happened in our region's Panama City, Fla., where the airport moved from downtown to a site in a rural part of Bay County.
But this study is for a move from suburban Mobile County to the urban center.
Mobile Regional Airport has handled commercial flights since 1986. The Mobile Aeroplex, formerly called Brookley Field, today handles cargo and general aviation, and is also an industrial hub – most notably the location where Airbus builds A320 series jetliners and where Bombardier hopes to build its CSeries jetliners. And those are just two of the aviation activities.
It will be interesting seeing the pros and cons that surface. I can tell you now that one of the arguments in favor is that a downtown location will be more convenient for air travelers since it's right along Interstate 10, and is likely to be more appealing to air travelers from fast-growing Baldwin County to Mobile's east.
But it will also bring a lot more air traffic to the facility, which is currently used by UPS and FedEx for their operations.
It's not hard to see why the Mobile Airport Authority is looking at this issue. Mobile Regional Airport has fewer boarding passengers than any of its Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor neighbors, according to data from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The big dog, of course, is Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans, which is in a category by itself in this region with 5,569,705 enplanements in 2016, up from 5,329,711 the previous year.
To the immediate east of Mobile, Pensacola International Airport had 792,916 enplanements in 2016, up from 787,916 the previous year. Further to the east, Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport at Eglin Air Force Base had 440,002 enplanements in 2016, up from 373,072 in 2015.
Going further to the east, Northwest Florida Beaches International, a new airport that replaced the downtown Panama City airport, had 434,302 enplanements in 2016, up from 428,704 the previous year.
Next in the number of passengers is Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport, to the west of Mobile, which had 305,157 enplanements in 2016, down from 317,154 the previous year. The Mississippi airport is the only airport in the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor region that experienced a drop in passengers from 2015.
Then there's Mobile Regional Airport, bringing up the rear with 288,209 enplanements in 2016, up from 278,053 in 2015. It's not hard to see why airport officials are taking a look at measures to increase air traffic. The more airlines, the more competition and the lower to prices.
This is not the first time Mobile has looked at ways to increase air traffic. For any of you folks who have been around a while, there was a time back in the late '90s when there was talk about creating a brand new airport in Baldwin County to serve both Mobile and Pensacola. But that plan never took off. Now there's this approach.
We’ll keep you posted on how this progresses.
In another airport story during the week, demolition of buildings to clear the way for a new terminal at Louisiana’s Lafayette Regional Airport could begin in a few months. The airport administration received an environmental assessment from the FAA and is advertising for someone to demolish several structures.
The work will include remediation of an old hangar, which contains asbestos and lead. The design of the new terminal is about 60 percent complete. It should be released to the airport commission and public in July. Lafayette is an hour west of Baton Rouge and two hours from New Orleans along Interstate 10. (Post)
By the way, Lafayette Regional Airport had 206,667 enplanements in 2016, down from 243,840 in 2015.
Allegiant Air took delivery this week of its first U.S.-built A320 jetliner - the 69th aircraft built at the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility at the Mobile Aeroplex.
The plane is the 11th of 13 new A320s scheduled for purchase by Allegiant. The previous A320s were built by Airbus in Toulouse, France, and Hamburg, Germany. Allegiant is transitioning to a single fleet type aircraft by the end of the year. It currently has 99 Airbus aircraft either in service or committed for future delivery.
Allegiant, headquartered in Las Vegas, began service in 1999 and now has more than 80 aircraft serving 350 routes. (Post)
These deliveries are good news for Mobile, Allegiant and the flying public, and could go a long way towards getting the airlines past the bad publicity it received in a recent 60 Minutes segment. The story blasted Allegiant for its safety record, saying it had three times as many mechanical problems with flights as six competing airlines during a year of reports filed with the FAA. Most of the problems involved the MD-80, which is among the oldest aircraft operating today. Allegiant’s vice president of operations issued a statement after the program that said the story was outdated and shows a troubling misunderstanding of the FAA’s oversight of airlines. (Story)
The airline and some of the analysts who cover it say it is safe and on track to put many of its operational problems behind it, according to a story in USA Today. If the carrier was unsafe to fly the FAA would suspend the airlines operating certificate. Many of the carrier’s aircraft are older and require more maintenance, according to one contributing columnist.
In this region, Allegiant serves Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Gulfport-Biloxi, and Louis Armstrong.
The Navy's F-35C may not have the range it needs to strike enemy targets, the House Armed Services Committee said in a new report. It raises questions about whether the multibillion-dollar program is already outpaced by threats.
The committee's conclusion is in the 606-page report on the fiscal 2019 defense authorization bill. The F-35C may not have enough range without refueling, and that's by aircraft that are not stealthy, opening both to enemy attack.
In another F-35 story, the Israeli version of the F-35 has now been used in combat for the first time. The Israel Defense Forces announced on its Twitter account that the Israeli version of the fighter, using its "Adir" moniker, was used in operational missions. The Israeli Air Force used the F-35 in two recent strikes in Syria. (Post)
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $558.3 million contract that provides for sustainment support, including equipment, training devices, training facilities, non-aircraft spares, Autonomic Logistics Information System hardware and software, and facilities standup in support of low-rate initial production Lot 11 F-35 Lightning II aircraft in support of the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy; non-Department of Defense (DoD) participants, and foreign military sales (FMS) customers. Work will be performed in Florida, California, Texas, New York, and the United Kingdom and is expected to be completed in February 2023. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center. … Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded $19.9 million for a modification to a delivery order previously issued against a basic ordering agreement. This modification provides for additional radar upgrades to Block 3F configuration Air Force and Marine Corp F-35 Lightning II aircraft. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, Texas, and is expected to be completed in June 2021. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center. … Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $13.4 million modification to a previously awarded contract for GBU-49 Enhanced Paveway IIs. Work will be performed in Tucson and is expected to be completed by Jan. 31, 2019. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.