Airport business proposes relocating new hangars, building new facility for firefighting aircraft

Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Existing hangars at the McCook airport would be replaced with a new larger hangar under a plan to create a winter base for firefighting aircraft.
Bruce Crosby/McCook Gazette

McCOOK, Neb. — Red Willow Aviation is eyeing construction of a new, significantly larger, hangar at McCook Ben Nelson Regional Airport which would replace the city owned 8-plex hangar that was slated for removal last year.

Owner of the local aviation sales, fuel and repair business, Griff Malleck, presented his proposal to the Airport Advisory Commission Monday afternoon. Malleck intends to construct a 150 foot by 225-foot hangar he said would be taller than anything at the airport now. “We’re thinking about big aircraft now,” said Malleck.

The effort stems from an increasing demand for hangar space at the airport, particularly from owners of larger aircraft, as well as an operation looking to house several AT-802 Air Tractors. The aircraft are converted spray planes equipped for firefighting services and the owner is looking for a winter home located in the Midwest, according to Malleck.

The hangar would be constructed in two phases, with Malleck indicating the second phase would likely be dependent on whether an agreement was reached with the Air Tractor operation.

Plans for the new hangar indicate it would be located where the city’s dated 8-plex hangar sits. The 8-plex structure was deemed surplus and slated for removal by the city last year as part of a new 6-plex hangar construction project. The 6-plex, however, was ultimately built at a different location and the city continued to rent out space in the 8-plex structure, which they now intend to sell via public bid.

Malleck indicated, if he won the bid on the 8-plex, he would relocate and repair the structure before building the taller hangar on the site.

The new 6-plex hangar that was completed last fall is already full and city staff indicated Monday there was also a waiting list of three tenants.

Commission members and city staff alike praised Malleck’s intended investment in the airport. Public Works Director Kyle Potthoff indicated it would most likely present a revenue neutral scenario for the city, given the loss of approximately $6,000 annually in rental income from the 8-plex that would be offset by tax revenue from property improvements and the projected economic boon.

Malleck estimated the hangar to have an assessed value in the $1.3 million range upon completion and said he could also end up employing more people if everything worked out.

Commission members unanimously recommended City Council approve Malleck’s request to construct a hangar at the site and subsequently lease the property from the city.

Other activity during Monday’s meeting of the Airport Advisory Commission:

* Commission members discussed potential changes to the commercial flight schedule at the airport, primarily related to the end-of-day return flight from Denver. Commission member Doug Skiles indicated changes to the Denver to McCook depart time implemented earlier this year, moving it up two hours earlier to 5:30 p.m., were making it difficult for some business travelers and causing them to seek other transport.

City Manager Nate Schneider said the flight schedule was always subject to change and indicated city staff had expressed to Boutique Air the need to shift to an earlier Denver depart time after it was expressed to them. He also said he didn’t know what Boutique’s plans were for the future and later in the meeting said the city really didn’t have a whole lot of authority, while adding Boutique staff were always very responsive.

Commission members heaped praise on Boutique’s service since taking over at the airport before asking city staff to discuss with the airline the possibility of changing the later flight time back. Commission members touted everything from the minimal number of cancellations that occurred while boarding record high passengers, to stellar customer service provided by not only terminal employees but also the airline’s pilots.

A representative from the airline had intended to attend Monday’s meeting but informed city staff earlier in the day they would be unable to make it, according to Schneider. City staff indicated they would ask Boutique officials for their policy and thought process in regard to the discussion and potential changes to the flight schedule.

Commission chair Richard Stull said McCook was in a great position compared to some neighboring communities that lost commercial air service in recent months. City airport staffer Ken Vontz seemed to agree and said a flight earlier in the day included at least two travelers who drove down from North Platte.

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