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Pilots unhappy over airport changes in Greenwood

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New restrictions on hangar use and rising repair costs are forcing some Indiana pilots to fly the coop from the Greenwood Municipal Airport.

Pilots say they're upset by changes since new management took over and have begun go to Shelbyville and other airports to buy fuel. Some are even considering moving their planes.

The dissatisfaction comes as the airport has been struggling because both recreational pilots and business travelers have been cutting back on flying. Airport revenue is expected to fall short of the $300,000 it costs to run the facility next year, so the board overseeing the facility plans to raise rates.

"There's a lot of discontent with the way things have been going," pilot Brett Striegel told the Daily Journal in Franklin.

Jim Norsick, a member of the Greenwood Pilots Association, said the social club disbanded after more than 30 years after members were discouraged from meeting in the terminal.

Pilots also are unhappy about a proposed hangar lease contract that would prevent them from hiring their own mechanics, from storing enough oil in their hangars to do oil changes and from using enough electricity to warm up a twin-engine plane. The changes would make it difficult for pilots to do routine maintenance themselves, they say.

Jeff Colvin, president of the Greenwood Board of Aviation Commissioners, said the city wants to turn the airport into a business hub but isn't trying to alienate plane owners who are based there.

"Some of it is just resistance to change, which is normal and always happens," he said. "But that being said, we're listening to all concerns and doing our best to deal with them."

Colvin said the new manager, Indy Jet Center, plans to put mechanics in Greenwood when the economy improves and air traffic picks up. But right now the company sends mechanics down from the Eagle Creek Airpark in northwest Indianapolis.

Striegel, one of the disgruntled pilots, said he's so unhappy with the changes that he's looking at other places to house it, including the Bloomington airport.

Eagle Creek Aviation runs the 230-acre airport, but Greenwood owns and maintains it.

The city can raise property taxes to support the airport but instead relies on hangar rent and other user fees to maintain the airport. Any money the airport generates pays for its operations or goes into savings for future airport expenses, Greenwood Clerk-Treasurer Jeannine Myers said.

Colvin said the aviation board has to update the leases in part because of new Federal Aviation Administration restrictions stemming from a case in Texas in which a recreational pilot flew into a federal building. Other new regulations have tried to crack down on renters who have been storing all-terrain vehicles or running businesses out of their hangars.

Colvin said the board has had regular meetings with the pilots to address their concerns.

"We listen to them and we appreciate them," he said. "We want to fix this situation."

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