Airport History

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 6, 2012

Supervisors hear history of airport

By Billy Davis

A longtime airport board commissioner delivered an overview of the facility to county supervisors Monday.

David “Dopey” Floyd described construction of the original 3,000-foot runway in the 1960s all the way to the current terminal building, jet fuel sales, and rented hangars.

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The current runway is 5,000 feet in length, the maximum expanse possible, after it was extended at least twice in the ‘70s and ‘80s, he said.

Panola County’s airport “looks as good as any you’ll find around the state,” said Floyd, who attended the meeting in Sardis with airport manager Randy Turman.

Floyd had been asked to appear for the benefit of two first-term supervisors and Sheriff Dennis Darby, County Administrator Kelley Magee said afterward.

The Panola County Board of Supervisors is responsible for maintaining the airport, though an airport board that includes Floyd is appointed to oversee day-to-day operations.

The airport is located northeast of Batesville along Highway 35, where it shares sprawling acreage with the sheriff’s department.

Some supervisors came to the meeting with questions about the airport after Panola County government expects to spend approximately $17,000 if it wins a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The county’s cost for the grant jumped from $157 to $17,860 after the federal government changed its matching requirements, a representative from Airport Development Group told supervisors last month.

Supervisors voted to seek the grant, and advertise for construction bids, after hearing from Floyd and Turman.

Supervisors on Monday zeroed in on Turman’s rental income from current hangars at the airport, a long-standing agreement that pays him for overseeing the facility.

Turman said he had already told Magee he is “happy” with the current rental payments and would not expect to pocket any more income if more hangars are built.

Turman also pays for the 100-octane fuel for aircraft and enjoys any profit as a second source of income.

Floyd told supervisors Turman expects to pocket as little as $300 a month from fuel sales.

“Right now he has $52,000 (of fuel) in the ground,” Floyd said. “It’s quite an investment. I wouldn’t want that kind of arrangement.”

Turman said his most recent delivery of jet fuel cost him $35,000, which he had to pay within 10 days.

The airport manager also said he maintains a $50,000 million insurance policy with the fuel supplier, Chevron.

Floyd shared stories of how Turman had gone unpaid by fuel customers, though Turman later said he has rarely been “stung” by non-paying customers.

Floyd also said Turman is also paid $500 monthly for overseeing the airport while a part-time employee is paid $1,000 month.

Turman is a longtime crop duster pilot who operates a flying service.

Floyd, 74, told The Panolian he has been involved in the airport since the 1970s, when he began skydiving.

And about that nickname: Floyd said it came Disney film “Snow White,” when an uncle first viewed his newborn nephew in the hospital.

“It stuck,” he said.