Airport Gas Station Making Difference

Times have been tough for airports around the nation in recent years.

With stricter guidelines, security requirements and higher fees, it's becoming more difficult for smaller airports to survive.

However, officials at Meridian Regional Airport say the 'power of the pump' is helping it beat the odds.

Prices at the gas pump for drivers on roads is still relatively high. But it seems the price is right at Meridian's aviation station.

With some of the lowest prices on the market, the Fixed Base Operation, also known as the service station for aircraft, is based at Meridian Regional Airport. Since being founded the year after the 9/11 attacks, it has doubled the airport's overall profit margin.

'It's definitely the single biggest revenue source that we have for the airport,' says Meridian Regional Airport president, Tom Williams.

Over the last 8 years, Williams says the operation has generated profits anywhere from $200,000 to $500,000 annually.

Referred to as FBO for short, airport officials say there are many reasons for the service's success.

'I think location is a lot of it,' says FBO manager, Chris Sutton. 'The amount of traffic and the stuff you offer the pilots when they come in.'

Even equipped with a family restroom to accommodate the needs of the aging population and young children, Sutton says the facility is has many amenities not found at other sites.

'There's a flight planning room for pilots to find out about the weather and plan their flights. There's a kitchen filled with food like hot dogs, hot waffles, popcorn and drinks that's free for the pilots. There's also a pilot's lounge and briefing room that military personnel often use for debriefing after a flight.'

With 15 employees, airport officials say their hope is to expand the Fixed Base Operation service even more in the future.

'That's what it's about trying to make Meridian a center for aviation activity,' says Williams.

Next Tuesday, May 22nd, a dedication and open house will be held for the airport from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. During that two-hour period tours of the newly renovated areas will be offered. The event is free and open to the public.

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