WEST JORDAN, Utah (ABC4 Utah) There is widespread anger, sadness and unrest at the South Valley Regional Airport in West Jordan, better known to long time residents as Airport #2.
More than 40 employees will likely lose their jobs on May 15th. Leading Edge Aviation has been running operations there for the past 5 years. The company is called the Fixed Base Operator of the airport which is owned by Salt Lake City. The FBO works under a lease agreement with the city and the current 5 year deal expires on the 15th.
Negotiations between Leading Edge and the city have broken off in a disagreement over money and the length of the new deal.
Pilots, plane owners and airport users will sorely miss the company claiming it’s the best FBO the airport has ever had. They say the past 6 or 7 ground operators have gone bankrupt and Leading Edge has made a real “go” of it, providing top notch services including fuel, maintenance and pilot instructors.
Tim Miller has flown for decades. He owns the largest private bio-tech company in the state and has nothing but glowing words for Leading Edge. “We’ve had Leading Edge as a partner here for the past 5 years. They have become family and to hear that they’re leaving the field is devastating.” He adds, “this is one of the best service providers, best group of people I’ve ever experienced in 40 years of flying.”
Company officials say the deal being offered by the city didn’t make any sense financially. They claim in the long run they would have been getting a return of only 50 cents on every dollar invested under the city’s offer.
Salt Lake City’s Department of Airports was negotiating the new deal. Spokesperson Nancy Volmer wouldn’t go into specifics, but says it looks like Leading Edge will be gone, even though they were a great FBO. “We are moving forward” she says, adding “right now we’re planning on their contract expiring on the 15th and we will bring in another provider to operate it for the summer months.”
Pilots are concerned they will lose many of their current services when a new provider takes over, but Volmer is promising a similar level of service. “So we’ll be able to fuel planes. We’ll be able to operate the radios, make sure the planes can take off and land. We’ll have maintenance out there as well. The only thing we won’t be able to provide is the flight school.”
She emphasizes that both sides negotiated in good faith claiming the city even offered a one year extension of the current contract while negotiations continued.
Company officials told some of the pilots that they rejected that because having just a one year extension could cause many of their skilled employees to seek jobs elsewhere.
If Leading Edge leaves on May 15th, 40 employees will lose their jobs and more than 50 flight school students will have to continue their training elsewhere.
Pilot Tim Miller says it’s like losing a family member. “You get to know them very well over 5 years. Their spouses, their children, their family stories, their parents. It’ll be a real loss.”
The city is hosting a public meeting Tuesday afternoon at 4 at the old Southwest Reservations Building on the Executive Terminal side of Salt Lake International. Upset pilots, plane owners and airport users are expected to pack the hearing which will include a question and answer period about the future of the airport.