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Albany advisory group raises concerns over airport

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A city advisory group dedicated to the Albany Municipal Airport has raised concerns over the state of the facility, specifically the hangars meant to store aircraft and their current uses that may fly in the face of Federal Aviation Administration standards.

“This airport has so much potential but one of the issues we have is these hangars aren’t being used for their original intent which is to hangar planes,” said Mark Patrzik, chairman of the Albany Municipal Airport Advisory Commission.

There are currently 16 privately owned hangars in the city’s airport, meaning a private party built the hangar but is leasing the land it sits on from the city. According to city operations director Chris Bailey, those leases specify that the buildings are to be used to store aircraft but owners are permitted to have other items in their hangar.

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Separately, the city owns 14 hangars including a large historic hangar, a smaller hangar called the Blue Hangar and 11 small open T-hangars. According to Bailey, rentals on the T-hangars turn over regularly and there are 24 names on a waiting list.

“The big historic hangar,” Patrzik said, “is being turned into a storage unit. It was leased and now it’s being subleased to someone else.”

Luke Doughton said that when he first met the renter of the historic hangar, he had several projects in the works. As time went by, those projects became less and less and more and more room opened up in the hangar.

Doughton, who already leased a hangar at the airport, said he was invited to store some of his things in the historic hangar as well.

“We don’t have a problem moving out of the historic hangar,” Doughton said. Currently, the space is being used to facilitate his business which specializes in manufacturing aircraft products.

“My concern is more about the time frame and conditions of moving out if that is what eventually happens,” he added. “The space that we use there is vital to the functions of our business. If we were kicked out without enough time to allow us to find an alternative, it could put us out of business.”

Patrzik said the FAA is clear in addressing the issues at the airport hangars — from car storage to the open secret that at one point, an individual was living in a hangar.

Citing the FAA’s policy on non-aeronautical use of airport hangars, Patrzik and the board say only aircraft can be stored in the hangar. Use as a storage facility for other items is prohibited, they said.

The policy states that an airport sponsor, “may permit non-aeronautical items to be stored in hangars provided the hangar is used primarily for aeronautical purposes and the items do not interfere with the aeronautical use of the hangar.”

Doughton said he takes the policy to mean he is permitted to store his aircraft equipment related to his business in the hangar. He also noted that the use of the hanger provides four full-time jobs and brings customers into Albany from around the state and country.

“The airport commission,” Doughton said, “has specifically mentioned that increased operations at Albany Airport are a specific goal. The increase in visitors contributes to fuel sales and local restaurant patronage.”

“We have hangars not being used to house planes,” Patrzik said. “We have a waiting list and the more planes we have means the more fuel we pump is more revenue. This has gotten a little out of hand.”

Bailey said city staff is working with the advisory group to clean up the airport but noted it could have very little impact on freeing up hangar space.

“In addition to the effort to clean up the space outside the hangars, our airport manager will work to ensure the tenants are following the terms of the lease regarding aircraft and other storage,” she said. “However, it’s important to note that if the tenant is complying with the terms of the lease and is not interested in leasing available space in their hangar to another party, the city cannot force them to do that.”

“So while we may find there are a small number of hangars without a plane that need to house a plane in order to comply with their lease, we aren’t going to solve a long waiting list for aircraft storage this way,” Bailey added. “The best way to make a meaningful impact in increasing aircraft storage options at the airport is for additional hangars to be built. There is a lot of land available for hangar development and we are encouraging anyone who is interested in building a hangar to contact the city.”

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