Williams Gateway Airport’s governing board agreed Monday to negotiate a revised lease with a company that is planning to greatly increase flight training activity at the airport.
Advanced Training Systems International, which has about 65 employees at the airport and trains fighter pilots from all over the world, is trying to land a contract that would more than double its work force and require a renegotiation of its lease.
Airport development director Casey Denny said if ATSI succeeds, it will bring 16 F-16 fighter jets to the airport, which could generate 2,500 to 10,000 takeoffs and landings a year. It could also bring 200 jobs.
Denny said he couldn’t disclose what company ATSI is negotiating with, and company executives could not be reached for comment.
Mesa Mayor Keno Hawker asked if the extra training traffic could reduce the airport’s capacity to handle the commercial traffic envisioned when it rose from the site of the closed Williams Air Force Base 10 years ago.
Denny said the highest traffic volumes projected for the year 2020 still are about 13,000 takeoffs and landings short of the airport’s capacity.
The board’s direction came at the end of its annual retreat, during which funding and other goals are set for the coming year.
Airport authority executive director Lynn Kusy said ATSI traffic could have payoffs for the airport beyond a larger lease payment.
"We have huge needs, and we need to ask, how much will this help our federal lobbying?" he said.
Board members agreed other local governments should be encouraged to consider joining the airport authority, which would lighten the financial load carried by the current four member governments, which together contribute $3 million to $4 million annually to the airport budget.