“We plan to build at least five new hangers on land just to the west of the existing facilities,” said new Airport Manager Myron Lasater. And the city may also build a terminal on the property.
Lasater and his partners, Sonny Belew and Kerry Bay, all grew up in Lebanon and started flying out of the Lebanon Airport, so when they decided to move their business aviation services away from Nashville International Airport the Lebanon facility came to mind.
“We were driving around looking at small airports, when I said, ‘What about Lebanon?’” Lasater said.“This is a ‘Field of Dreams’ mentality, a build-it-and-they-will-come idea,” Bay said. “We want to bring the enthusiasm and excitement to this airport, a breath of fresh air.”
The team chose Lebanon based on several things, but location was the primary reason.
“The most important thing was Lebanon’s strategic location,” Belew pointed out. “It’s right on I-40, Hartmann Drive is close and Nashville is nearby.”
The potential impact on Wilson County was important to the partners, too.“The economic impact could be a big benefit to Lebanon,” Lasater said, noting that a well run, conveniently located airport can be a major selling point with businesses deciding where to locate new offices.
He also added that having a quality aviation maintenance service, which Redi-Air intends to provide, at the airport will draw business from all across the country.“There’s a misnomer out there about businesses owning airplanes,” Belew said. “An airplane is a business tool just like a computer.”
Lasater, who worked as a pilot for Cracker Barrel for more than 12 years, gave an example. “Suppose your company has a president and two or three executives who need to be in Casper, Wy. for a conference,” he said. “A commercial flight will take two days there and two days back, but if you have a plane you put everyone you need on that plane this morning and they’re back in time for dinner with their family.”
He pointed out that while that is partly personal convenience it also saves the company three or four days pay for however many executives.
Those smaller company planes are the ones Redi-Air hopes to encourage to use Lebanon Airport as a base.The company has already started its efforts to spruce up the facilities at the airport, too.
The reception area has a fresh coat of paint, new furniture and a modern new look.“Three weeks ago, this area was institutional white and not very attractive,” Lasater said.It’s all part of the effort to make the airport ready for company, and Redi- Air is expecting visitors.
On May 20, a Vietnam helicopter pilots’ group will be stopping off on a “Trip to the Wall” (the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C.), partly because there are several Vietnam pilots in this area.On June 7-8, there is a D-Day Memorial planned for the airport, with everyone encouraged to come out and see the planes and activities.
The following weekend will be Airport Appreciation Day with tours of the airport and possible plane rides and other activities.
On Sept 4, the 555th Squadron, a World War II all-black squadron, will be coming to the airport, and there’s a fly-in scheduled for later in September.
And in between, the Young Eagles program is still alive and well at the airport. Young Eagles is a program sponsored by the Experimental Aircraft Association to give plane rides to children. For more information, call the airport at 444-0031.But what if you want to learn to fly? Redi-Air group will be providing lessons for potential pilots.
First, new pilots will talk to Lasater. He will match them up with a flight instructor who will stay with them for the entire program. New pilots can train at several levels from private license up through commercial piloting, and in the future there will even be training on Very Light Jets (VLJ). These small jets carry from four to eight passengers, and cost in a range from $1.5 million to $2.7 million. They are quieter, more efficient and more airport friendly than the bigger models.
The plan is to have a variety of sizes and types of planes for pilots to train for future careers.
At this point, Belew, Bay and Lasater all say they are very pleased with the support their plans are receiving locally. “We want to say thanks for the support we’ve received,” Belew said. “We’ve been very well received,” Lasater said.
“Yes, we appreciate the city fathers and the airport commission for helping make this work,” Bay added.