Mesa’s Falcon Field airport climbed eight spots to become the nation’s fourth-busiest general aviation airport in 2007, authorities said.
The airport registered 314,129 takeoffs and landings last year, up by more than 65,000 since 2006, according to Federal Aviation Administration numbers.
Airport director Corinne Nystrom attributed the jump to the economic vibrancy and activity taking place at Falcon Field and throughout the city. Several flight schools, including Sabena Airline Training Center, Premier Helicopters and Regional Airline Academy, recently began operations at the airport, contributing to the rise in use.
“Business is definitely going up,” Nystrom said.
Projected revenue for fiscal year 2007-08, excluding federal and state grants, is $3.5 million. Projections for the upcoming fiscal year are estimated at $3.8 million, not including grants, authorities said. Nystrom added that the ranking would help draw more companies to the airport.
Falcon Field still has about 30 acres out of 600 acres vacant. There are about 95 businesses on the airport, half of which are aviation-related.
The higher ranking makes the airport more competitive for getting federal grants as well, Nystrom said.
General aviation airports provide services for air charters, flight schools and privately owned aircraft.
More than 1.4 million square feet of land and more than 53,000 square feet of existing hangar space have been leased to fill demand at the former military airport bounded by McDowell, Higley, McKellips and Greenfield roads.
Exec Jet Holdings LLC is the latest airport entrant. The company is leasing 4.66 acres for hangar development.
The growth brings with it related issues, including complaints of noise from surrounding neighborhoods.
Last year, the airport received 68 noise complaints, up from 22 in 2006. As of Feb. 25, the airport had received seven complaints this year.
But airport projects supervisor Jeff Tripp said Falcon Field, built in 1941, is not alone in facing such issues and pointed out that other similar airports in the Valley received more complaints.
“Once upon a time we were out in the desert, and now with population growth, it’s a pain,” Tripp said. “We try to be a good neighbor.”
The airport follows a set of voluntary noise abatement policies that are not to supersede safety guidelines, Tripp said.
One representative of a local group promoting economic development in the Falcon Field area said the ranking is a great way to put Mesa on the map.
“This may get people to look at Falcon Field and bring it on their radar screens,” said Lois Yates, executive director of the Falcon Field Area Alliance.
Deborah Kelly-Richardon, national director of pilot mentoring at Premier Helicopters, said that the company moved from Scottsdale Airpark to Falcon Field because it needed room to expand.
“This place was just a great fit,” Kelly-Richardson said.
Phoenix’s Deer Valley airport and Southern California’s Van Nuys and Long Beach airports round out the top three rankings.