By MARK MCGEE
At this time of the year most people are making plans for the new year ahead.
Paul Perry, director of the Shelbyville Municipal Airport, is looking ahead to what is going to be happening in the next three to five years.
The Shelbyville Airport has always been considered one of the finer, smaller airports in the state. But with the Middle Tennessee State University Aerospace Program moving to the facility, interest in what the local airport has to offer has been booming.
“It is really turning into a training capital in Middle Tennessee and maybe even Tennessee,” Perry said. “MTSU wants it to be the training capital of the Southeast and even the United States. We have always had a lot of training here but MTSU moving here has really drawn attention to that.
“It is such a safe airport compared to other airports because of the way Bob Bomar set it up and way the city has taken care of it over the years after buying it from the Bomars in the 1950s. They have bought property around it to protect the approaches to the airport. There is a lot of training here because this airport is so wide open.”
The Shelbyville Airport Authority’s members are approved by the City of Shelbyville to oversee the facility. Erick Larson chairs the authority which also includes members Eric Cazort, Gary Fayard, city council member Bobby Turnbow, Kelly Wilson, and Helene Wharton.
Despite the far ranging plans, 2024 is going to be eventful as well, starting in January with a ground breaking for five acres of asphalt to be used for airplanes from the MTSU program.
“Most people won’t be able to see that first phase from the road,” Perry said. “It is going to be five acres of asphalt for parking airplanes. There will be a temporary building for the use of students but we aren’t talking about anything fancy.
“They hope to start moving airplanes here this summer a few at a time. They have to work out the logistics to try to make it work. They will start by bringing in about a dozen but they could bring in as many as 30 airplanes. MTSU’s ultimate goal is to have 65 airplanes here for training purposes over the next three to five years.”
The campus facilities planned by MTSU will include two hangars, an administrative building which will include classrooms, offices, and a dining center. They would also like to eventually add another runway.
Perry points out the addition of MTSU will not only produce leasing funds to be used for items like runway maintenance, but will also increase the airports operational numbers which would result in more funding from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the State of Tennessee as well as improving the opportunities for bigger grants.
“Those operational numbers include take offs and landings,” Perry said. “The numbers we are forecasting are 100,000 operations a year. That is more than most of the airports in Tennessee. These are the numbers you see at airports like Knoxville and Chattanooga.”
“Right now were averaging 1,000 operations a week, about 54,000 operations a year. That is an FAA concern because of increased flights in the area.”
One of the more visible additions to the airport over the next few years as a result of those increased operational numbers will be a control tower. The FAA is concerned with the expected increase in the use of airspace in the area and is strongly encouraging the construction of a control tower.
Perry estimates the tower will be four stories high. It will be manned by air traffic control personnel.
“The best way to handle everyone’s concerns is to have a control tower,” Perry said. “We are leaning towards a manned tower. There was a program that controls the airspace through cameras and computers, but the FAA is moving away from that.
“What we have discussed is training air traffic controllers. It would be incredible to have it in Middle Tennessee. It would make things safer and faster and draw in more businesses interested in being based here.”
At least four hangars are scheduled to be built soon by private entities. Azure Flight Support is building a hangar and ramp as well as a maintenance building. Andrew Stover is also constructing a hangar with a ramp.
“They lease land from us,” Perry said. “One has broken ground. We have two more which had just received approval though codes. The material is sitting on the ground. By summer time we hope to have four new 60 x 60 hangers.”
MTSU is expected to start work on phase two in late summer or early fall of 2024.
Some of the other additions like the tower will take longer.
“FAA will analyze the whole area,” Perry said. “FAA will tell us where it will go in order to meet everybody’s requirements. Just to get into the pipeline with the FAA is a five-year plan. It is a long, drawn out process.”