The Thomson-McDuffie Regional Airport will be changing hands soon.
As first reported last month in The McDuffie Mirror, former Trans World Airlines Vice President Keith Bounds is looking to lease the airport facilities from the city and county governments and become the new fixed-base operator.
The Thomson City Council and the McDuffie County Commission met jointly on Friday morning to go over the lease agreement with a fine-toothed comb. Both bodies approved the lease, contingent upon several revisions and approval by the city and county attorneys.
Mr. Bounds, who hopes to start as FBO soon, asked officials to expedite the lease agreement schedule because of several upcoming aviation conferences at which he could represent and promote the airport. City and County officials think Mr. Bounds will be an excellent ambassador and administrator for the airport.
"Mr. Bounds, I think, is a very qualified person. He is a commercial airline pilot. He's a vice president of Trans World Airlines," said County Commission Chairman Charlie Newton. "In negotiations with him, he seems to know a good deal about the airport business."
Officials have expressed their delight in the fact that Mr. Bounds will be a daily on-site manager, unlike the two former FBOs. But some were quick to praise current FBO James Lyle's efforts to improve the airport.
"In spite of Mr. Lyle's deficiencies, he's helped us get (the airport) to where it is," Thomson Mayor Bob Knox said during the meeting. "And now we need someone to move it forward. I think (Mr. Bounds) is the man to do that."
The lease agreement with Mr. Bounds will be very similar to the current agreement with Mr. Lyle. The city and county jointly own the facilities and will lease management of the property to Mr. Bounds for $1 per year. Additionally, Mr. Bounds will pay $2,150 per month for use of hangars on the premises.
Officials agreed to a 25-year lease that Mr. Bounds said was necessary to obtain funding from loans.
But County Attorney Sammy Fowler said he will check to make sure the county can legally enter into a lease agreement with a non-governmental agency for that length of time.
Should Mr. Fowler find the time frame of the lease to be too long, it will be changed to a five-year lease that is automatically renewable for four more terms.
Also new in the lease is a minimum standards section that Mr. Bounds and officials agreed upon to make sure the airport is operated in a way that both governments approve. The airport will be open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week with full-service fuel sales available and four employees present during that time.
Mr. Bounds also has several plans to make the airport more attractive to corporate business as well as private pilots.
"The plan is to continue with what is currently in place, which is the sale of fuel and the availability of service to transient and local aircraft," Mr. Bounds said. "The first thing that will probably occur, near-term, is the reintroduction of full-time (aircraft) maintenance services."