The Lynchburg Regional Airport could be transitioning from a city-owned-and-run operation to an independent entity.
On Monday afternoon, airport officials voted unanimously to recommend the airport transition to an independent authority model. Currently, the airport is owned and operated by the city of Lynchburg and is the only commercial service airport in Virginia not overseen by an independent authority.
The nine-member Lynchburg Regional Airport Commission will bring the recommendation to Lynchburg City Council on Oct. 8 during a joint meeting to discuss the potential change.
Since 1990, the commission, whose members are appointed by city council, has advised the city on planning, organization and direction of the airport. Although the airport is in Campbell County, Lynchburg has owned and operated the airport since 1931.
According to The News & Advance archives, city and airport officials first looked into the independent airport authority model in the early 2000s.
“It started in earnest again last fall,” said airport director Mark Courtney, who will be stepping down in November. “The commission chairman [Bert Dodson] has been wanting to pursue this again. He was also initiating the effort.”
Airport consultant Steve Baldwin, of Steven Baldwin Associates, reviewed the Lynchburg Regional Airport’s current model and presented a report Aug. 1 to airport officials.
The report found that changing the governing model would make the airport more efficient, allow for better business opportunities and encourage development of an airpark around the airport. The report also found a new model would help the airport add more carriers and destinations, capturing more of the Lynchburg-area market.
The process would take about a year, states the report, and Baldwin said the airport would have to apply to the Federal Aviation Association to change its operating license from the city to the independent authority.
Courtney said airports are not traditional city services and are more similar to a private business.
“We have all of the basic financial and revenue streams in place,” he said. “With that in mind, independent authority is clearly one of the most efficient models.”
At Monday’s meeting, before unanimously voting to recommend the transition, commission members discussed the report and any changes made to it since their previous meeting.
“I think they did a good job with it, especially in shortening it down and the tone of the report itself,” said local pilot and Commissioner Jones Stanley. “I think it just reemphasizes the point we were trying to make that, hey, this is a good deal.”
If the airport does transition to an independent authority, the city can still have some say on the airport’s policy direction and could appoint members to a board overseeing the airport, Baldwin said.
“It’s somewhat technical,” he said. “I won’t say it’s complicated, it’s just a whole lot of moving parts.”
Olivia Johnson covers the city of Lynchburg for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5537.