The Grand Reopening, Again

Hawthorne Global Aviation Services recently celebrated the opening of its fixed-base operation facility at New Orleans Lakefront Airport (KNEW).  It was the second such celebration for the facility this year.  And it comes just as the airport shuts down its main runway for 10-14 days for repavement.

Hawthorne last summer had purchased the facility from AeroPremier Jet Center and owned it for only a month when Hurricane Isaac struck in late August. The hurricane had flooded the airport with two feet of water in some areas, causing it to close for five days. After five days the airport reopened initially only to VFR flight while repairs were made to airfield lighting.

The floods filled Hawthorne’s newly acquired facility with a foot of water, forcing the company to operate out of a trailer for the next three months.  The FBO had only been opened for about eight months before Isaac hit.

The facility once housed a National Guard helicopter unit, but had sustained critical damage from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It had remained closed for years afterward, and its fate was uncertain. But AeroPremier in 2008 won a bid to take over the building, and with Federal Emergency Management Agency funds, began a restoration that continued into this year. AeroPremier Jet Center formally reopened the facility earlier this year and subsequently sold it to Hawthorne.

After Isaac, Hawthorne was able to retain the contractor who worked on the original renovations, which made the process go much smoother, General Manager Jay Taffet says.  He also sees a “silver lining” in that the company was able to make minor adjustments to the facility that it wouldn’t necessary have otherwise done.

Getting the renovations done in a timely fashion was particularly important since New Orleans is hosting Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3 – bringing large numbers of business aircraft to the area.

But the opening occurred as the airport was preparing to shut down the airport’s main runway for up to two weeks for repaving. The airport and its tenants had discussed completing the pavement work in sections, but they agreed it would be better to complete the work at one time.

Asked about preparations in case of another hurricane, Taffet says he plans to “put down more sandbags than the Mississippi River has ever seen.”

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