Feb. 22—Crossville Memorial Airport supports almost $6 million in local economic impact, a new report finds.
"This is a gateway to our community," Crossville City Manager Greg Wood told the Crossville City Council during its February audit committee meeting.
During an average week, several private jets bring visitors to the community, he said.
"You get an idea of who's in town looking," he said. "There's a lot that comes through the airport."
The Tennessee Department of Transportation completed a year-long, statewide economic impact study of the state's aviation services in 2019. That report found the Crossville airport supported 43 jobs with a payroll of $2.26 million. Visitor spending contributed $823,000 in the area, with a total economic impact of $5.95 million.
Statewide, the 78 public airports contributed $40 billion to the state's economy and supported 220,936 jobs, with six commercial service airports and 72 general aviation airports.
Crossville Memorial Airport falls in Region 2 of the state's airports, which stretches from the Kentucky border to the Georgia and Alabama line, with 24 counties and 19 airports. Those airports welcomed 130,000 general aviation visitors, with another 215,000 visitors arriving at Chattanooga's Lovell Field. Those visitors spent $703 million at the airport with another $296 million off-airport spending and $2.6 billion in freight and cargo activity.
"Tennessee's 78 public-use airports are critical components of the state's transportation network, linking and providing access to regional, national, and global transportation systems," said TDOT Commissioner Clay Bright.
Airports serve as a catalyst for people to conduct business, serve clients, and ship cargo. Having a well maintained and diverse aviation system supports a robust economy.
"A safe, secure, efficient, and resilient aviation system is essential to our state's physical, economic, and social health," said Michelle Frazier, director of TDOT's Aeronautics Division. "This report recognizes aviation as a driver of the economy, including economic recovery."
Allen Howell, with Azure Flight Support LLC, the fixed-base operator for Crossville Memorial Airport, said that 200-300 businesses and individuals use the Crossville airport on a monthly basis.
"We see continued growth potential at the Crossville airport as the region that the airport serves — Crossville, Cumberland County and adjacent counties — continue to grow in population due to great living conditions," he said.
Azure provides fuel sales, aircraft parking, aircraft maintenance, discovery flights and flight instruction.
The past year was unique, Howell told the Chronicle. While business began at a brisk pace in January and February, everything came to a halt as the pandemic hit in mid-March.
By June, visitors began returning to the airport, though reports show fuel consumption was down by about 25-30%, he said.
"We have recovered activity and sales better than most people in other parts of the country," Howell said. That trend includes Crossville Memorial Airport and airports in Smyrna and Cleveland, TN, which Azure also operates.
"I attribute that to Tennessee being an attractive place to visit and a lot of people are moving here because of better government, lower taxes and more stable communities," Howell said.
General aviation has increased in popularity as people look for alternatives to commercial airlines.
"Today, we are basically back to normal in terms of revenue in fuel sales, maintenance and flight training," Howell added.
Interest in flight training has increased during the pandemic as people seek out alternate transportation and developing hobbies that don't require being in crowds.
"I think small aircraft flying is becoming more popular as something fun to do without risk of catching the virus," Howell said.
Learn more about Crossville Memorial Airport at flycrossville.com.
Heather Mullinix is editor of the Crossville Chronicle. She covers schools and education in Cumberland County. She may be reached at email@example.com.