An inquiry from a litigious West Bank businessman who’s interested in competing with Jackson Hole Aviation — even if just for a short period — has been shot down for the second time in several years.
The Jackson Hole Airport board of directors decided last week not to take any action on a request from Greg Herrick, who had implored Jackson Hole Airport to allow competition in its private aviation market space. Federal Aviation Administration regulations require the airport to accommodate competition among fixed-based operators unless airports themselves are the owners and operators.
Jackson Hole Airport is not the owner of its FBO and won’t be for another three years, but its board has announced its intent to take over the business when Jackson Hole Aviation’s lease runs out in spring of 2023.
To make room for Herrick or another business that would run a second FBO, the airport would have to reconstruct some hangars and carve out 3,000 square feet of space for a lounge and administrative space in order to meet its FAA “minimum standards.” At the earliest, according to KLJ Engineering, those facilities wouldn’t be constructed in full until late fall 2022, Airport Director Jim Elwood told his board.
“Final completion would actually be out into February of 2023,” Elwood said. “Based on this analysis, the second FBO would have at most only five months to operate prior to that April 2023 transition to an airport FBO.”
At that point the public lounge and administrative space for the second FBO would have to be deconstructed. Going down that path would not be “rational” or “reasonable,” Elwood said.
“On that basis,” he said, “staff recommends not issuing an RFP for a second FBO.”
Airport board members took the advice, agreeing unanimously not to move forward.
Herrick’s 2017 bid to compete with Jackson Hole Aviation put Jackson Hole Airport on the track toward taking over its FBO, which has previously been run by one or two private businesses. At the time, the airport board was preparing a request for proposals and was moving in the direction of housing two competing FBOs before it reversed course and announced it would instead buy out the last five years of Jackson Hole Aviation’s operating agreement for $26 million.
That proposed business acquisition was met by several Herrick lawsuits that dragged on for years, though Jackson Hole Airport ultimately prevailed on the most consequential complaint, which challenged the legality of how the airport was financing the acquisition.
Afterward, the airport and Jackson Hole Aviation couldn’t come to terms on a shorter-term, three-year contract buyout. The airport board announced it would instead wait for the 2023 lease expiration, but in the meantime it was met by another written inquiry from Herrick asking to reconsider the second FBO.
“As you are aware, as sponsor of a federally obligated airport accepting federal funds, you must make the airport available at reasonable terms and without unjust discrimination between type, kinds and classes of aeronautical activities,” Herrick wrote to Elwood in May. “Nothing has changed from our original application, which demonstrated Wyoming Jet Center desires to and is fully prepared to promptly move forward.”
The airport engaged KLJ Engineering in the aftermath to come up with estimated construction timelines.
It’s unclear if the fight for a second FBO is entirely put to bed. Herrick said on Tuesday he’s still mulling his next steps.
“We’re studying our options right now,” he said. “In the meantime, the board should be thankful I saved them $26 million.”