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Upgraded facilities, improvements coming to Detroit’s city airport in new 30-year lease

Posted By: The Detroit Free Press on May 28, 2024.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

For the first time in 50 years, the noncommercial Coleman A. Young International Airport (KDET) is expecting major revitalization efforts to fly in soon.

Last year, the city of Detroit obtained approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to institute a 20-year airport development and strategy design plan, allowing the airport to apply for federal funding that would subsidize airport infrastructure upgrades. Now, the city has offered Avflight, KDET’s fixed-base operator since 2011, a 30-year leasehold — the first long-term lease in the airport’s 97-year history.

Over the past 13 years at Detroit’s city airport under short-term leases, Avflight has provided essential services to the airport’s flight operations, including fueling, ground handling, and hangar services. But now, as KDET’s sole service provider, the 30-year lease gives Avflight new opportunities to invest in the airport, which the company plans to do starting this summer with the construction of a modern terminal covering at least 3,000 square feet and a 15,000-square-foot heated hangar adjacent to the existing terminal.

While the airport stopped regular commercial service when Southwest Airlines pulled out in 1993, the airport maintains its role as a center for corporate and private aviation, pilot training and sustainable aircraft innovation, meaning that improvements and upgrades will drive economic growth for the city and educational opportunities for Detroiters.

“We’re going to be tearing down 100-year-old buildings and putting up brand new, state-of-the-art facilities, which will be able to put the airport into a very competitive situation with other airports in the area. … We’ll help be able to drive traffic to this airport as well as potentially future businesses,” said Jason Watt, director of the Coleman A. Young International Airport.

Having successfully completed similar revitalization projects throughout Avflight’s 26-location network across North America and Europe, including at Michigan’s Traverse City (KTVC), Grand Rapids (KGRR), and Willow Run (KYIP) airports, the new structures and infrastructure improvements are expected to greatly enhance the airport’s amenities, service and security, transforming the airport into a more appealing option for transient visitors, airport tenants, charter operators and more.

“There is so much potential at the Coleman A. Young International Airport, and after several years of hard work, residents and visitors alike will begin to see signs of the enormous change to come as Avflight kicks off construction this summer,” said Detroit’s Chief Operating Officer, Brad Dick, in a news release. “I look forward to a few years from now, when Detroit once again has a truly state-of-the-art airport within our city limits.”

The upgrades will also bring Davis Aerospace Technical High School back to the airport, said Watt, allowing faculty at the airport to provide flight training to Davis Aerospace students as well as other Detroit public school students.

Additionally, with experience in electric charging stations for aircraft, ground equipment, and personal vehicles within its network, and procuring and handling sustainable aviation fuel, the agreement with Avflight opens the door to more sustainable opportunities. That includes continued work with KDET’s Airspace Experience Technologies (ASX) to develop next-generation electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft and commercialize them for public use.

The city recently completed a $350,000 LED taxi lighting upgrade and $3.5 million runway renovation at the airport and plans to begin work on a $1.2 million ramp pavement improvement project and $8.1 million engineered material arresting system, a safety feature to help stop aircraft as they approach the end of the runway.

Other city-planned initiatives include an airport beautification initiative, upgraded snow removal equipment, and the construction of a new control tower with the FAA beginning in 2026, as well as establishing educational and community organizations at KDET to promote and host educational opportunities for Detroiters. In time, proponents hope the airport revitalization project allows the Davis Aerospace Technical High School to move back to the airfield, the city said in a news release.

Just 6 miles away from Detroit’s city center, the airport has long been an important transportation hub for the metro Detroit region, housing public services like Certified Aircraft Rescue Firefighting, Civil Air Patrol, and the Detroit Police Department’s aviation unit.

Even as a noncommercial airport, KDET also supports Detroit’s economy by facilitating business travel and promoting tourism with tenants like MyFlight Tours Detroit, the city said.

“We couldn’t be more excited to finally bring this project to fruition,” said Avflight’s Vice President of Operations, Joe Meszaros, in a news release. “With its location near the city’s business district, and close to many automotive companies and suppliers, our new terminal will provide a shining beacon to welcome commerce to Detroit. It will be a facility citizens can be proud of, and one that will support many livelihoods as we look to double our staff with an increase in traffic, expand our service offerings, and provide greater educational opportunities on the airfield. With the city and Avflight’s investments, we’re making significant strides to revitalize Coleman A. Young International Airport, carrying the city into a new generation of aviation.”

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