The Leading Edge Jet Center, which is the fixed-base operator at Redmond Municipal Airport, makes the most of its 4,400-square-foot facility at Redmond Municipal Airport.

Though the nearly 60-year-old building is mostly made up of a former hangar, it looks modern inside. Renovated just a few years ago, it has a meeting room and lounge areas for private pilots to rest. A concession area features vending machines and free popcorn.

But it will all be coming down in the next couple years as Leading Edge prepares to expand as the result of a new agreement with the city.

It will be replaced by a 6,000-square-foot operator building, while a 24,000-square-foot executive airplane hanger will also be built nearby. They are part of a 30-year lease extension with the city that requires Leading Edge to make a $5 million investment within three years, with another $1 million of capital improvements required after the fifth year of the agreement.

Leading Edge is increasing its footprint at the airport by 52 percent to 287,650 square feet as part of the deal, which also requires the jet center to increase its annual lease payment to Redmond to $129,000, up from the $49,000 it now pays, according to a news release.

Leading Edge has been at RDM since July 2015, and has been the only fixed-based operator at the airport since it bought Butler in 2017 and Professional Air in 2018.

Leading Edge, which started at Bend Airport, came to Redmond at a time when Butler and its landlord at the airport, KC Aero, filed multimillion-dollar lawsuits against Redmond, alleging breach of contract and more, according to Bulletin archives.

Leading Edge has developed a strong relationship with the city, said Brad Fraley, president and CEO of Leading Edge Aviation, the jet center’s parent company.

“When we came in, the city was looking for a company that was forward thinking and wanted to grow and increase the services at the airport, and that we did,” he said.

Leading Edge provides fuel to both commercial and private planes at the airport, with 15,000 fuelings since June 2017. Of those, 13,800 were for commercial planes, said Nelson Carrick, general manager of Leading Edge Jet Center.

Fuel for planes means revenue for the city. Redmond collects seven cents of every gallon of aviation fuel pumped at RDM. In 2018, that meant $315,000 brought in from 4.5 million gallons of fuel, according to the news release.

Leading Edge also provides tugging, de-icing, water and shuttle services for private aircraft and on-call maintenance and mechanic work for airlines, which sometimes need outside assistance because Redmond isn’t a hub airport. Fraley said Leading Edge serves customers from large corporations to two-seaters.

“From Gulfstreams all the way down to little Cessna 150s,” he said.

They joke that most of the maintenance calls seem to come in around 2 a.m.

“You don’t remember the ones during the day,” said Fraley, who grew up around the Redmond airport, where his father was FAA facilities manager.

The jet center also provides services for the U.S. Forest Service’s Redmond Air Center.

They’ve even been known to offer concierge services like securing concert tickets or babysitting customers’ children while their parents go to lunch.

“We take care of a lot of unusual requests,” Carrick said. “In this business, we don’t like to use the word ‘no.’ ”

Leading Edge became a fixed-base operator in Bend in 2005, after initially having a large flight school at the small airport.

“We started to do our own fueling for our flight school, and it just kind of grew from there,” Fraley said.

Leading Edge’s Bend facility is slightly smaller, at 3,200 square feet.

The new agreement with Leading Edge comes as the Redmond airport is booming. The city says landings and takeoffs at RDM have increased by 47 percent to 95,000 in the last two years.

The increase in corporate planes makes up a large part of that, jumping by 20-to-25 percent recently, Carrick said.

The new facility, which Leading Edge plans to open in two years, will feature leasable office space for aviation-related businesses, as well as the ability to house larger corporate jets. Carrick said Leading Edge uses about eight hangars now in Redmond but none are large enough to house a Gulfstream.

“We’ve already got several companies inquiring about the new office space,” he said.

The company will also expand its parking lot at its facility, which is located on the north side of the airport off Veterans Way.

The growth in corporate air travel to Redmond has partly been stunted by a need for new facilities, Fraley said.

“It’s one of those rare instances in development where you say, ‘If you build it, they will come,’ and they really do,” he said.

The city-owned World War II hangar, which is leased to Leading Edge, will get $100,000 in improvements, including a re-siding and a new roof, as part of the new agreement. According to city documents, it is a standard hangar built for Air Force bases in the 1940s and the only remaining World War II building at the airport.

Carrick said the hangar was used to work on B-17 and B-38 Flying Fortress planes. The current fixed-based operator building features photos of the early days of Redmond aviation.

Though no analysis has been done on the economic impact of Leading Edge’s Redmond expansion, Jon Stark, senior director of Redmond Economic Development Inc., has heard positive things about the fixed-based operator.

“Leading Edge has already improved FBO services on the airport, as reported by several of our mutual customers,” he said.

While Redmond and Bend are now its only fixed-based operator facilities, Leading Edge could expand outside Deschutes County.

“We’re just always looking for new opportunities,” Fraley said.

— Reporter: 541-548-2186, gfolsom@redmondspokesman.com

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