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Airport Commission Chairman Chris Pedersen and Michael Lyon, owner of Lyon Aviation, updated the research committee on the fee changes on Monday.

Pittsfield Airport Raises Landing, Tie-Down Fees

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Airport Commission has implemented new fees in hopes to raise revenues.
 
Airport Commission Chairman Chris Pedersen told a research group looking to the operations on Monday that a number of the fees have gone up — including more than a 60 percent increase for tie-downs and a complete revamping of landing fees. 
 
"The Airport Commission took this up in the beginning of July or the month prior and our goal was to have new fees in place for Aug. 1," Pedersen said.
 
The commission changed its landing fees from the three-tier system based on weight. The new plan calls for $4 per 1,000 pounds so some owners will be paying more than they had to land their planes while others will be paying less. 
 
Pedersen estimated that if the exact same number of planes landed as had in the prior year, the revenues would increase by $14,000 to $15,000.
 
But maybe more importantly, a number of the planes from Lyon Aviation will now be assessed landing fees — resulting in an estimated $80,000 contribution. Lyon Aviation is the fixed-base operator and owner Michael Lyon said some of his planes will now be charged. 
 
"Lyon is being charged for the landing out there. My estimation is we are going to be contributing about $80,000 to the budget," Lyon said.
 
The Airport Commission also changed parking fees but not by much, with revenue increase estimates being less than $1,000. Tie-down fees, however, were raised from $190 a year to $300. That 63 percent increase looks to double income from planes being stored there from $1,600 a year to $3,200.
 
According to Pedersen, the new rates update ones set in the 1980s. It isn't know how it will impact business operations. Pedersen said the Airport Commission reserves the ability to change fees at any point. 
 
"We have certainly heard concerns that they are too high," Pedersen said.
 
One thing that hadn't changed in the fuel flowage fee. Lyon receives that but the city could add a surcharge on top to raise additional revenues. But, now taking on landing fees, Lyon said the fuel is too important to his business to raise it now.
 
"To put another tax on the transient aircraft, it is going to be detrimental to our business," Lyon said. "I think it is a total package." 
 
Lyon and Pedersen said they are currently in discussions in trying to find a fee balance that doesn't hurt Lyon's business too much while also providing additional revenues. The Airport Commission could lower the landing fees for Lyon's planes while also raising the surcharge on fuel if that makes the numbers work better. 
 
"Our hope is to come to a total package that will help both sides," Pedersen said.
 
For the first time since the airport study commission was formed in February, Ward 4 City Councilor Christopher Connell voiced optimism about the revenue picture. Connell had been one of three councilors behind forming the study commission and came down particularly hard on airport management during the budget sessions. The airport has been subsidized by the city budget, and Connell had pushed for either the airport to be self-sufficient or for the city to consider other management options.
 
"This is probably the most encouraging meeting I've attended," Connell said.
 
Connell agreed that if Lyon is paying more in landing fees, then his proposal to up the surcharge on fuel could be a "taken of the table." 
 
While Lyon may be looking toward contributing more to the budget, the business is also looking to grow. At one of the research group meetings, it was said that there is tremendous demand for hangar space. Lyon said he is looking to build hangars — but right now it isn't clear where.
 
The airport has a master plan but that calls for various placements of buildings. Pedersen said the state is looking to renovate the airport's terminal but the master plan calls for it to be somewhere else. Pedersen is working to revisit the master plan — and that could have impacts on Lyon's building plans.
 
Lyon and Pedersen also addressed concerns for late night landings. Since staff is typically gone at night, there is nobody to collect the parking fees — a concern for Connell who expressed concern for not only the loss of revenue but also security. 
 
"I really would like to explore the options here," Connell said. "Somehow, someway we have to come up with a plan so we can monitor it for not only collection purposes but also protections purposes."
 
Lyon said the majority of the planes that land are either scheduled and staff has been organized to be there for the landing or they are his own planes, which hadn't had to pay a landing fee in the past. He estimated 98 percent of those flights were accounted for one way or the other so very little revenue was lost.
 
As for security, Pedersen said the state has also planned to upgrade the entire security system.

Tags: airport commission,   airport fees,   pittsfield airport,   

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