Tucson: Tucson International Airport (TIA): News

TUCSON AIRPORT AUTHORITY CELEBRATES SIXTY YEARS

Sixty years ago, 15 Tucson businessmen borrowed $25,000 from investors to create an organization to run an airport. They called themselves the Tucson Airport Authority. Within three years the organization, dubbed TAA, had repaid the loan and was responsible for Tucson Municipal Airport, home to two major airlines offering scheduled service to 100,000 passengers a year.

Today, with13 airlines, and 89 daily nonstop departures to 28 destinations Tucson International Airport serves over 4.4 million passengers annually.

The 67th busiest airport in the country, a multi-million dollar operation, and a huge economic generator, TIA is still guided by a group of community volunteers. Now the Tucson Airport Authority is composed of 115 members who meet annually to elect a nine-member Board of Directors, in 2008 chaired by Darryl Dobras, that oversees policy decisions and employs Bonnie Allin, TAA President/CEO, who is responsible for over 300 employees.

The Tucson Airport Authority is a unique organization as far as airport authorities go. Most major airports are owned and managed by county or city government. When airlines and civilian aviators were asked to vacate Davis Monthan Air Force Base in 1947, what had been the home of the Tucson Municipal Airport and its commercial service carrier American Airlines, relocated to the current location. The property was owned by the City of Tucson, however it was unprepared to operate a municipal airport.

Who do you call? In this case it was the Tucson Chamber of Commerce Aviation Committee, a group of businessmen led by car dealer Monte Mansfield. They spearheaded the effort to incorporate a nonprofit corporation that was created by Arizona State Charter on April 12, 1948.

It was shortly thereafter that the organization hired Robert ‘”Bob” W. F. Schmidt to operate the airport. He brought with him Charles “Chuck” H. Broman who succeeded him when he died in 1962. Mr. Broman managed the airport until his retirement in 1979 when Walter “Wally” A. Burg took the helm and led the organization until he retired in 2002, and Ms. Allin was named President/CEO.

The end of World War II brought many changes to the aviation industry. Commercial airline service took off in Tucson with the arrival of Frontier Airlines in 1950. At the same time, the State of Arizona asked the Authority to take over operations at Ryan Field, a vacated WWII pilot training field. In 1960, the State deeded the airfield to the City of Tucson subject to its lease with TAA.

By 1958, a new control tower was constructed and plans were underway for a terminal building on the other side of the field.

In 1963, the airport boasted six airlines, the 162nd Fighter Group of the Arizona Air National Guard, the completion of a spacious modern terminal, and a new name: Tucson International. The airport – now TIA – became a federal inspection station with the arrival of U.S. Customs and the international airline Aeronaves de Mexico, which later became Aeromexico.

An extensive remodeling in 1985 doubled the size of the terminal, allowing for jet-way boarding, larger gift shops and concourse restaurants.

Fifteen years later, the Authority embarked on another remodeling that added 82,000 sq. ft. to the front of the terminal. The result was more baggage carousels, ticket queuing, and a separate rental car facility and parking garage a short walk from the terminal building.

In 2006, the Authority launched a concourse renovation project that focused on passenger amenities including: welcome lounges in baggage claim; expanded food concessions and coffee cafes as well as a full service restaurant; free WiFi; remodeled meeting rooms available to the public for rent; reconfigured security checkpoints; the relocation of international arrivals to the main terminal; and conversion of the second floor of the parking garage to public parking.

The airport is big business, and the Tucson Airport Authority collaborates closely with local economic development agencies to attract not only new air service, but also new industry. TIA is home to more than 100 businesses that provide important services to aviation interests. Major employers include Raytheon Missile Systems, Bombardier Learjet and Skywest Airlines.

Since its inception, the Tucson Airport Authority has been a leader working to attract tenants that would provide economic benefits both to the airport and the city, as defined by its mission:

“….to promote and foster economic development by strategically planning, developing and operating the most effective and efficient airport system for southern Arizona.”

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© 2007 EMOL.org / Tucson Entertainment Magazine On Line. All rights reserved.

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