The Thomson-McDuffie County Airport may soon have a new boss.
Current Fixed Base Operator James Lyle is slated to sell the airport management contract. Pending the outcome of final negotations, Former Trans World Airlines Vice President of Distribution Keith Bounds could take over later this month.
At the joint city/county government retreat earlier this month, officials were pleased with Mr. Bounds' resume that includes a degree from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, being the founder, president and CEO of Travel Technology Partners as well as a pilot and flight instructor.
"We have one of the finest facilities anywhere," Mr. Lyle said. "I think with the additional services that Keith is going to bring there with his training experience as a flight instructor and also as a charter pilot to bring charter services in is going to really enhance the facility."
According to city and county officials, Mr. Bounds has agreed to "sink his life savings into the airport." They have tentatively agreed to a 25-year lease for his management services but hope to formally aprove the sale at a later date. Tuesday night, local leaders agreed to purchase some of the airport's hangars for $350,000.
One thing that attracted officials to Mr. Bounds was his willingness to manage from the airport. That is something Mr. Lyle said he wasn't able to do.
"I never worked there full-time. I was somewhat like an absentee owner," said Mr. Lyle, who was the airport FBO for the last four years. "I had great employees and a great staff, but I had other business interests. Keith is going to be an onsite, full-time manager."
Mr. Bounds -- who recently spent some time in McDuffie County -- is excited about the possibilities for the airport.
"I think there were just a number of things that seemed to be very attractive -- location, previous investment and really the opportunity to develop the business here," said Mr. Bounds, a resident of Chesterfield, Mo.
Mr. Bounds plans to continue the current services such as fuel sale and hangar space, but he also wants to attract more airplanes and add services as time goes on. He first plans to make the airport a full-time maintenance facility.
In his time in the airline industry Mr. Bounds has done just about everything. He has been the president of three TWA subsidiaries, and he has raised millions of dollars in startup costs for Travelinput.com and Bookit.com.
One thing he has never done is run a small airport. But he said he is ready for the challenge.
"I came from a background of working for the airlines," Mr. Bounds said. "I spent about 16 years with TWA, so I've had experience in various aspects of the business not only in airlines but as well as commuter airlines, flight instructor schools, etc...
"I've been all over the industry in working for multi-billion dollar international companies, but this is something that I have a keen interest in. It's really the grass roots where the rubber does meet the runway."
While Mr. Bounds plans to leave the staff in place, Mr. Lyle will still be available for advice, especially during Masters Week when the airport expects to see 300 and 400 aircraft.