A new hanger is being constructed at the Zephyrhills Municipal Airport for the first time in 16 years.
The 10,000-square-foot hangar, located on the northwest portion of the airport property, broke ground on June 22.
Canco General Contractors expects to complete the hangar by late October.
The new hangar is owned by Thomas and Keith Morrell of TKM Aviation.
They recently signed a 30-year lease with the City of Zephyrhills for roughly $360 per month to use the land where the hangar is being constructed.
The hangar will primarily house the company’s small piston aircraft mechanic, maintenance and inspection shop, Thomas Morrell said.
“One of the primary reasons we picked Zephyrhills to open a business was there was no real maintenance on the field — there was not really a shop there that could be on-call if needed where pilots could come in if they had an issue,” Morrell said. “There wasn’t really anybody (at the airport) that could take on that work, and we noticed that there was a need,” he added.
Morrell continued: “Zephyrhills has the lowest fuel prices in the region, so they get a lot of traffic from people flying their airplanes, and you never know what’s going to happen; you try to take off, something breaks and, ‘Hey, you need a mechanic there,’ and that’s what we can offer.”
Nathan Coleman, deputy airport manager, called the new hangar a “big advantage” for the city’s airport going forward.
“Each airport is very beneficial when they have a maintenance facility down on the field,” Coleman said. “When commuter traffic or transit traffic comes in, if they have a problem, they’ll actually have a facility to go to.”
Coleman believes the economy is the main culprit for why a new business hangar hasn’t been built at the airport since JJ Aeronautics came aboard in 2000. He noted most of the hangars at the airport are city-owned and rented out by private airplane owners.
“It is exciting, to get a new business hangar here,” Coleman said.
TKM Aviation has been operating out of the airport’s Aerocenter, where they’ve leased space since Aug. 2015.
“We (always) intended to build a hangar, but there wasn’t a whole lot of available property or available hangar space at that point…so we went ahead and got our business rolling,” Morrell said.
“We’ve just been in the process of getting contractors secured, getting permits and doing all the things it takes to build (the hangar),” he added.
While the new facility will mainly serve as a small plane maintenance shop, Morrell didn’t rule out the possibility of also subletting any unused space.
“If once we’re established in there, and we realize we can utilize some of the space for hangar rentals, then we will be open to doing that,” he said.
The company also is looking to open an Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic School at the airport, and is considering adding more mechanics to its staff of two full-timers.
“If we start getting an increase in traffic and appointments, and we get more airplanes coming in with clients, then we’ll definitely have to add more mechanics,” Morrell said. “If we get to the point where we can start the mechanic school like we are pursuing, then we’ll definitely have to hire several more people to help run and facilitate that.”
Published July 13, 2016