Metro Airport operator seeks lease changes

March 18, 2010

Indianapolis Aviation, the fixed-base operator at Indianapolis Metropolitan Airport in Fishers, wants to transfer the lease on one of two hangars it controls at the facility to automobile dealership Tom Wood Inc.

The Indianapolis Airport Authority board on Friday will consider the request, apparently brought on by "declining FBO business," according to an airport board memo.

Indianapolis Aviation last year attempted to seek rent relief from the authority by having it take over debt payments or buy out its lease at the Fishers airport.
The authority declined and said the operator obtained a mortgage against its leasehold interest without consent of the authority.

After the denial, Indianapolis Aviation owner Tom Auda sought a buyer for his business or for his lease, according to the board memo. Auda could not be reached for comment.

Besides the recession, the Fishers airport has been plagued by speculation that it will be closed. Some Fishers town officials would like to see the airport moved elsewhere in the region so that tax-generating development can take place on the commercially appealing property along busy 96th Street near Interstate 69. The airport appeared doomed when Madison County officials proposed a new airport for the northeast side, but those plans fell through.

The speculation apparently hurt Indianapolis Aviation.

“Is Metro Airport Closing? NO! Metro and Indianapolis Aviation are here to stay." Auda’s firm says on its Web site. "The Indianapolis Airport Authority released a statement in the fourth quarter of 2009 stating that the discussion is over and Metro will not close or be relocated.”

As fixed-based operator, Indianapolis Aviation provides a pilot lounge, fuel and other supplies, plus flight training and charter services. Auda has been the operator at Metro since 1989.

Under the proposal to be considered by the airport authority, Tom Wood Inc. would rent the hangar for $18,840 a year, plus pay an annual land lease of $3,031—  essentially under the same terms as Indianapolis Aviation.

Tom Wood Inc. owns several car dealerships in the region. Owner Tom Wood, who died last month of lung cancer, was an avid aviation buff. According to federal aircraft registry records, his businesses own three planes: a P-51 Mustang fighter, a 66-year old SNJ-5 scout trainer plane used by the Navy and an early jet fighter—a North American F-86 Sabre.

Meanwhile Friday, the airport authority board is expected to vote to approve a $1.3 million contract with airport consultancy Landrum & Brown to study future development potential of airport property, including the former Indianapolis International Airport terminal at Interstate 465 and High School Road.

The previously announced land-use study is to be completed by year-end and will involve participation from numerous local government agencies and community organizations.

Airport officials are enamoured with the “aerotropolis” concept proposed by University of North Carolina professor John Kasarda. It entails a carefully planned urban form of aviation-intensive businesses radiating from the airport, with aviation-supportive or related businesses further out.

A consulting contract with Kasarda is expected to be forthcoming.


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