Officials coy on rumored deal to boot TAC Air from Chattanooga airport

Photo by Chris Butler and Misty Hughes McKeithen

By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog

CHATTANOOGA — Is it possible that TAC Air in Chattanooga will cease to exist by Friday?

As was the case last week, nobody in the know, whether with TAC Air or the Chattanooga Airport Authority, has officially clarified or dispelled any of the rumors circulating about the company.

Tennessee Watchdog’s various messages seeking comment with representatives from both entities weren’t returned Monday either.

Officials with the National Air Transportation Association, however, are talking. NATA vigorously opposed the airport authority’s decision to use taxpayer dollars to compete with TAC Air, a private enterprise. NATA officials now say their most pressing concern about the matter is one of transparency.

“We really support a free-market competition at the airport, so we want to make sure that everyone gets a shot at competing under fair market conditions,” said John McGraw, NATA’s director of regulatory affairs.

TAC AIR: The company may be leaving Chattanooga, as a report in the city’s Times Free Press suggests.

“We will only get involved if we think that this is not being done in a transparent way, or if we see that there is something being done that wouldn’t meet FAA standards. In that case we would absolutely contact the FAA or weigh in.”

In 2010, the Airport Authority used $4 million in state grant funding from the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s Aeronautics Division to compete against TAC Air. As a fixed base of operations, TAC Air provides fuel and other services. Airport authority officials have admitted the taxpayer-subsidized FBO, under the management of Wilson Air, has lost taxpayer money.

Does NATA fear other airport authorities around the country might follow Chattanooga’s example?

As Tennessee Watchdog has already reported, airport officials in Florida and Texas have already expressed an interest in doing so.

“We haven’t seen that on a large scale, although this has happened at some airports,” McGraw said.

NATA has previously asked Tennessee. Gov. Bill Haslam to involve himself in the matter.

As the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported last week, the airport authority is in talks with TAC Air to acquire the company’s hangar and office space for its own uses.

The agreement, according to the newspaper, is pending, and neither side had finalized a deal as of late last week.

Meanwhile, the board of commissioners will hold a special meeting at 2 p.m. Wednesday to begin the process of seeking bonds to acquire unspecified property for the airport, according to the Chattanooga Airport’s website.

Tennessee Watchdog has thus far been unable to confirm if the property in question is related in any way to TAC Air’s Chattanooga operations.

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