Currently, the airport at Chase functions as a private airport. Only two entities use the runway, the Dan A. Hughes Co. and Sikorsky Aerospace Maintenance.
Hughes has his executive jet at the airport, and customers of the Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopter operation fly in and out to conduct business.
Anyone else must obtain permission to land or take off at Chase Field.
Montez told the board that becoming a public airport could qualify the Chase Field operation for funding from the Federal Aviation Administration and for state money from the Texas Department of Transportation.
Currently, public airport funds are used for improvement at Beeville Municipal Airport.
Montez explained that the airport at Chase Field currently operates under visual flight rules (VFR). That means pilots must approach the facility without the use of instruments.
However, the BDA has started on a $200,000 project to bring the operation up to an instrument flight rule (IFR) status. That process will not be completed until sometime next summer, Montez sad.
“That puts us in a different category,” the director said.
If Chase becomes a public use facility, that could increase traffic at the airport, bring in additional hangars for small and large aircraft and allow cargo planes and other aircraft to Chase Field.
Making Chase a public access airport would mean that the BDA would have to expand its operation to include providing different types of aircraft fuel.
Montez said Beeville Municipal has been a good little airport for a long time. But its runway is small – 75 feet wide and 4,500 feet long.
“The runway here is huge,” Montez said of the landing strip at Chase. The main runway is 200 feet wide and 8,000 feet long.
The director said changing the designation is not something that would happen quickly.
“It’s not an overnight thing,” Montez said. “We need to meet a lot of requirements to be considered a public use airport.”
The director told the board that the FAA provides $87 million a year for improvements to small airports. Seventy percent of that comes from the federal government, and the remainder of the money – 30 percent – comes from the airports themselves.
“Chase Field has many assets,” Montez said. “This community growth is going to continue for years to come.” Oil companies operating in the Eagle Ford Shale formation could use Chase for their corporate aircraft, and contractors who could be involved in the construction of a proposed nuclear power plant at Fannin could end up using the Chase facility for their planes.
Montez said Chase could be used as a relief airport for Corpus Christi in the event something were to happen that would stop traffic at that city’s airport.
“I think it’s a good thing,” new BDA board member Mike Page said of the plan, and he made a motion to give Montez the authority to proceed.
City Councilman David Carabajal, another new board member, agreed with Page and seconded his motion.
Carabajal recommended talking to the city about the future of the existing municipal airport.
The board then voted without opposition to give Montez the authority to proceed with plans to make Chase Field a public access airport.
Montez said he should be able to report on the progress of the effort within 90 days.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.