The new terminal at Leesburg Executive Airport has been open less than a month, but officials say occupancy and revenue already are surpassing expectations.
American Helicopter Inc. has applied to move into the last available space in the 18,339-foot Stanley F. Caulkins Terminal. That would bring to more than $194,000 the total annual rent paid by the terminal's five tenants, said Stephen Axeman, chairman of the Leesburg Airport Commission. Earlier estimates projected $139,000 in annual rent at full capacity, Axeman said.
The terminal, which had a ceremonial opening in May but did not officially open its doors to new tenants until this month, has 5,554 square feet of leasable space for flight schools, aircraft sales companies and fuel suppliers. The base rent is $25.04 per square foot per year, but many tenants have bid substantially higher -- as much as $58 per square foot per year -- to get the space they want.
American Helicopter Inc.'s proposal to lease the remaining 825 square feet received the airport commission's unanimous recommendation Tuesday and is expected to go before the Leesburg Town Council within two months. Although the exact leasing terms have not been finalized, the rent is expected to be slightly higher than the base figure.
The helicopter flight school operates five helicopters from Manassas Regional Airport and said it would like to bring one helicopter and a full-time instructor to work in Leesburg. It would be the first helicopter flight school at the airport.
Two medical-transport helicopter services, MedSTAR Transport, which is affiliated with Washington Hospital Center, and Inova Fairfax Hospital's AirCare, recently began working out of the airport.
"Airplanes and helicopters generally get along very well," said Kevin Rychlik, president of American Helicopters. The airport said, however, that it doesn't have enough room for helicopter hovering and some other types of training and that that would have to take place at other airports.
Rychlik said the new terminal was a key factor in bringing his business to Leesburg.
"We really like Leesburg, and we really like the airport," Rychlik said. "The growth potential for any aviation business here is great."
In February, several existing tenants went before the Leesburg Town Council to complain that rent at the new terminal would be substantially higher than at the old terminal, where it was $17.48 per square foot per year and, unlike the new price, included janitorial services and utilities. Some warned that excessive rates could leave the new terminal empty.
Airport commission members countered that raising rents was the only way to pay for the $4 million terminal. The airport is more than $4.5 million in debt, and the Town of Leesburg provides an annual subsidy to the facility, which was $432,000 this fiscal year.
Supporters say the airport is a vital economic engine that brings $41 million a year to the local economy.
"It's wonderful to see that we're starting to pretty much break even," Axeman said. "Personally, I'm looking forward to the terminal being filled up."
Tuesday's meeting was the first time the airport commission had met at the new terminal. Other commission business included a discussion of how to get rid of the fuselage of a twin-engine commuter turbo prop lying at the south end of the airport near Sycolin Road. The fuselage has been there about a year, ever since Loudoun County gave it to the airport to train prospective pilots. The airport, however, was not able to find a place for the fuselage, and many describe it as an eyesore. Axeman said he hoped the Smithsonian Institution would be interested in acquiring it.
"We'd like to have it used for some sort of educational purpose," he said. "If they want to take it, we'll dump it on them."