Marianna Municipal Airport Wings into the Future via the Past
The Marianna Municipal Airport earned its wings as a flight-training center for the U.S. Army Air Corps (and later the U.S. Air Force). Today, thanks to a new lease agreement, it could possibly feature military flight training again, part of an overall plan to revitalize the decades-old sky port.
City commissioners approved a lease agreement in March allowing SkyWarrior Flight Support Inc. to start up a private Fixed-Base Operator enterprise in the airport terminal. The lease is for five years, but it could be extended to eight years if the proprietor is successful in securing contracts for military flight training. The new FBO might also offer food services and amenities to attract general aviation pilots, including a full-time airplane mechanic.
In short, this provides a great economic opportunity for the city, according to City Manager Jim Dean.
“The Marianna airport offers a good place to do that kind of (military) training,” Dean said. “We’ve never, under the city’s management, catered to or tried to win over that business.”
In conjunction with this new enterprise, the city is going to spend close to a million dollars on airport renovations. Improvements will be made to the terminal, the parking lot, landscaping, equipment facilities and new hangers that will make people get interested in this airport.
“It will be a facelift with interior and exterior improvements that will give it a new look,” he said.
Dean described SkyWarrior’s owner, George Sigler, as a former military pilot and successful businessman whose Bay Minette, Alabama, flight services center is an award-winning establishment. Marianna officials are hoping this former success is duplicated here in Jackson County.
“We’re hoping that based on his successes he’ll bring that to Marianna, which is a bigger airport for him, and we’re hoping he can expand on the success he’s had at Bay Minette,” Dean said.
According to city records, SkyWarrior Flight Support Inc. will act as a manager/agent for the city and will be responsible for collecting hangar rental fees, receiving 5 percent of the gross amount collected for rent. The FBO will be responsible for marketing, light maintenance, keeping the building and the parking lot clean and sweeping the runways as needed. It will also pay the city .06 cents per gallon on all fuel sales. The city will also get 2.5 percent of any additional sales or services provided by the FBO.
The airport has a rich history of service and training. The Army opened the airfield in 1943 and it served as a training base until 1947, at which point the U.S. government gave control of most of it back to the city. The base was reacquired by the U.S. government in 1952 to train more pilots during the Korean War era and became Graham Air Base. The base was deactivated again in 1960 and has belonged to the city ever since.
Dean said that the city has hosted special “fly-In” air shows to commemorate that important history, but at the same time the city needs to look forward and do things to help the airport and the community grow.
According to the city, the Marianna Municipal Airport runway consists of two 4,900-foot-long by 100-foot-wide intersecting runways. Both runways have pavement strength of 56,500 pounds single-wheel load (SWL). The airport apron is about 183,475 square yards and has more than 200 aircraft tie downs. The 20,000-square-foot FBO building has a space dedicated for a pilot lounge, flight service station, weather briefing area and pilot training classroom.
On the Record: Real Estate
From the volume of residential properties sold to the price point at which they’re situated, it appears that Jackson County’s real estate market is headed in a very positive direction. According to Kathy Milton, broker and owner at ERA Chipola Realty, the upward momentum is undeniable.
“I feel like there’s an improvement,” stated Milton. “It’s very obvious by the amount of activity we’re seeing and the amount of offers we’re receiving.”
For 2013, the numbers don’t lie:
All statistics listed below contrast sales in 2013 to 2012, and were provided by the Florida Realtors.
• 180 single family homes closed in 2013 — a 9.8 percent jump from 2012.
• 62 of those homes sold were cash transactions. 151 were traditional closed sales, a 14.4 percent increase. Only five short sales characterized 2013, an incredible decrease of 58.3 percent from the prior year.
• The median price of single-family homes remained the same ($85,000) while the average priced jumped 4.7 percent to $106,508.
• In Jackson County, the median days a single family home sat on the market in 2013 was 114 days, an 8.1 percent decrease from 2012.
Compiled by Chay D. Baxley