New Branson Airport to open

 - May 5, 2008, 6:03 AM

A privately owned and developed airport is under construction eight miles south of Branson, Mo., designed to serve vacationers flying to the Branson area, including airlines and general aviation traffic. The developers of the new airport, Aviation Facilities of McLean, Va., have accepted no federal funds to build and operate the airport, according to executive director Jeff Bourk.

While public funds are available to help defray the $140 million building cost, not accepting those funds, he said, “creates an advantage to us that translates into economic benefits.” For example, Branson Airport will be able to strike exclusive deals with airlines that want to serve the airport from particular cities. The airport can guarantee that airline exclusivity for that route so the airline won’t have to worry about competitors undercutting its prices. “The same is true with all of our vendors and concessionaires,” he added.

“We don’t have to follow federal grant assurances. By creating those arrangements, we’re also protecting the consumer to ensure those entities don’t price-gouge with high fares. And we provide companies the ability to come in and start their business and be successful without that competition. That’s extremely important. Airlines just cannot afford to be pounding on each other. They should not price-gouge, but they need to be able to charge the rates they need to be able to charge.”

Branson Airport will also own and operate the airport’s sole FBO, including providing fuel services, but will offer outside companies an opportunity to operate a maintenance shop and charter service. The FBO will include an executive terminal, private condominium hangars available for five-year-plus lease terms and larger hangars built to suit. Four 60- by 70-foot and five 52- by 56-foot hangars are planned initially, but the master plan includes 100- by 100- and 100- by 120-foot hangars as well. “We have room to accommodate all the needs that we can foresee,” Bourk said. The airport will have a single 7,140-foot-long runway with ILS and GPS approaches and a control tower. Before the formal opening in May next year, the airport might open for local general aviation users, according to Bourk.