Wes Stricker is in the final stages of an effort to establish his new company, Flying Tigers, at Columbia Regional Airport.
Nearly a year after the former co-owner of Ozark Air Lines won approval of his proposal for a new fixed-base operation at the airport, Stricker is preparing for takeoff. Fixed-base operations provide services such as flight instruction, aircraft maintenance, charter flights, sales and refueling. Flying Tigers would become the second such operation at the airport.
Central Missouri Aviation, which is owned by Terry Rackers, has been the only fixed-base operation at Columbia Regional for 26 years. Its manager, Randy Clark, said overlapping services would prohibit the two businesses from coexisting at the airport. Rackers agreed.
“I’ve expressed this before, but I don’t think there’s room for two fixed-based operations out here. ... In three years we’d be back to one,” Rackers said.
Despite that prediction, Flying Tigers will make a go of it by focusing its services, Stricker said.
“Our focus is designed to be in the aircraft-maintenance business,” he said. “Some of the members of my operation have a lot of experience in aircraft and airline maintenance.”
Stricker said his company has spent the past year meeting city requirements for a fixed-base operation.
“I’ve been working on all those projects, making flight training available and negotiating with fuel suppliers,” he said. “You don’t wrap up those before the licensure because that wastes a lot of time and money. You get the licensure first so you can build those facilities.”
One challenge that remains, Stricker said, is securing the use of land on the airport’s tarmac for fueling services. The property has been promised to the Post Office Distribution Center at the airport, but the lease has not been signed because of the U.S. Postal Service’s financial situation, Airport Manager Bill Boston said.
The distribution center wants the land for an expansion of its building and loading dock. While the center doesn’t use the tarmac, the expansion as proposed would stretch the entire length of the building, which extends west from the tarmac, post office plant manager Doug Roberts said. He estimated the area of property in question to be between 50,000 and 60,000 square feet.
Stricker argues that because the post office doesn’t use the tarmac or other airport facilities, he should get access to the eastern part of the land to establish a fueling station.
The Airport Advisory Board considered Stricker’s proposal for the land at its Sept. 3 meeting. Boston said that while members decided they need more information from Stricker, his intended use of the land next to the tarmac might take priority.
Stricker said he could begin operating in several months, pending the land decision, compliance with fire codes and modifications to buildings.
“We’re just trying to get as much done ahead of time as we can and to do what it takes to expedite the process,” he said.