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Daily photo by Gary Lloyd Tennessee Valley Aero owner Jim Achord at Courtland Airport.
Daily photo by Gary Lloyd
Daily photo by Gary Lloyd Tennessee Valley Aero owner Jim Achord at Courtland Airport.

Businessman seeks to lead airport:
Courtland mayor backing request
for management authority

By Kristen Bishop
kbishop@decaturdaily.com 340-2443

COURTLAND — A businessman at Lawrence County Airport said he can take the airport to new heights, if the County Commission will give him management authority.

Tennessee Valley Aero owner Jim Achord and Courtland Mayor Ted Letson made the suggestion during Monday's commission meeting. TVA, the only business at the airport, began offering flight services in November 2005.

Letson said Robert McClung, the only county employee at the airfield, is a groundskeeper and the airport needs an aeronautical expert like Achord to run things efficiently and attract additional businesses.

County Administrator Linda Harville handles all management duties for the airport, and Assistant Administrator Karen Harrison does the accounting.

Achord volunteered to manage the airport at no charge. Letson said McClung would continue his job maintaining the two 5,000-foot runways.

"I think the operation of the airport should be tied into someone who knows what's going on out there. ... Common sense should tell you that someone there could run it better than (the commission) could," said District 3 Commissioner Bradley Cross.

The airport is in an industrial park in Courtland. Officials agreed that improved airport operations could attract more businesses, and, in turn, bring in more tax revenue.

"I've met with three different corporations that would like to see some work done on the airport, and you need someone that knows a lot about aviation to do that," said Letson. "Jim is there usually seven days a week, and if questions come up on the weekends, people go to him, anyway."

All revenue from lease fees, hanger rentals and other services is reinvested into the airport, said Harrison. No local tax money is used to maintain the airport, but sales taxes go into the county's general and education funds.

Much of the airport's funding comes from federal grants, said County Attorney Cecil Caine. He said he was concerned that, if the Federal Aviation Administration saw the management situation as a conflict of interest, they'd cut grants.

"Whenever you have a manager that has a business there, it's an inherent conflict of interest," he said, during Monday's meeting. "The only real source of improvement is these federal grants, so you have to keep an eye on these agencies. They can give and they can take away."

Achord insisted there would be no problem should the commission allow him to manage the airport.

"We've been back and forth on this before, and honestly, there's a conflict of interest in almost everything," he said. "Ninety percent of airport managers own businesses on that field."

The airports in Decatur and Hartselle are both managed by business owners on the airports.

"As far as manager goes, I'd just be a point of contact," said Achord.

"Everything, with regards to regulations and established businesses, has to go through the FAA. New businesses would simply contact me, and I could tell them what they need to do, but they'd still have to get approval from the FAA and the commission."

Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Vicki Morese said Achord's personal gain would be a gain for the airport as well.

"He has a vested interest as a business to market the airport because it will increase his own business," she said. "But it's a proven fact that success brings success."

It was unclear Monday how much authority the commission would be willing to give Achord. Commissioners adopted a resolution Monday to work out a contract with him that will be presented during the February commission meeting.

Tennessee Valley Aero services at Lawrence County Airport

  • Aircraft rental

  • Flight instruction

  • Pilot services

  • Ground freight hauling

  • Aircraft and helicopter maintenance

  • Limited inventory of aircraft parts

  • FAA testing facility

  • Lubrication products

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