Airport receives $790,000 grant and new tenant, Aaron Tippin

By | January 24, 2019 9:16 am

Last Updated: January 24, 2019 at 9:19 am

Several officials from the cities of Sparta and Cookeville as well as White and Putnam counties attended the event Jan. 22 announcing a $790,000 grant awarded to Upper Cumberland Regional Airport. L-R: Hoyt Jones, City of Sparta alderman; Charles Greene, White County; Denny Wayne Robinson, White County executive; Ricky Shelton, City of Cookeville mayor; Aaron Tippin, Tennessee Flying Machines; Randy Porter, Putnam County executive and airport board chairman; Dean Selby, airport manager; and Pete Ziegler; not pictured, Jeff Young, City of Sparta mayor. (Photo by RACHEL AUBERGER)

Aaron Tippin has secured a 10-year lease with Upper Cumberland Regional Airport for Tennessee Flying Machines.  (Photo by RACHEL AUBERGER)

By Rachel Auberger

Upper Cumberland Regional Airport announced Jan. 22 that they have been awarded a grant in the amount of $790,000 and that this, along with a 10-year lease to aviation enthusiast Aaron Tippin, will allow them to build a new maintenance hangar.

This grant, along with the long-term lease to Tennessee Flying Machines, means the new hangar, which is 100 feet by 100 feet, will be built with absolutely no cost to the airport, according to Dean Selby, airport manager.

Selby stated they are looking at a one-year timeline for the construction of the hangar with hopes that it will be operational by the end of the upcoming fiscal year.

“With White and Putnam counties and the cities of Sparta and Cookeville targeting industrial development, this airport has seen a tremendous growth in air traffic,” said Airport Board Chairman Randy Porter. “The airport has taken an aggressive stance in attracting corporate and business air traffic to further assist in the recruitment of new business.”

“The Upper Cumberland region is embracing these projects that are important in sustaining and encouraging airport growth,” Selby stated. “An airport is the equivalent to an interstate exit in the context it provides a means for corporate, freight, leisure, air medical, military, and eventually commercial air traffic an ‘exit’ to reach the community.”

With Cookeville having been named the eighth fastest growing micropolitan by the US census bureau, the area growth is being mirrored by aviation and airport growth, further driving airport expansion. This growth and development resulted in the awarding of the 2019 Aeronautics Economic Development Grant to the Upper Cumberland Regional Airport, one of only nine projects across the state of Tennessee to be selected.

“This grant will be a giant step toward making our airport one of the best in the state by creating many more economic and development and tourism opportunities,” said Sparta Mayor Jeff Young. “I commend all of the leadership partners at the airport on a job well done.”

“I’m proud of all communities that are involved here – both counties and both cities,” City of Sparta Alderman Hoyt Jones stated, acknowledging that this was a joint project between White and Putnam counties as well as the cities of Sparta and Cookeville.

Tennessee Flying Machines, under the direction of Tippin, will be operating a warbird/antique aircraft restoration facility out of the new hangar after it is completed.

“With this grant, we are going to open up another hangar particularly for War Bird maintenance and restoration and also flight instruction,” said Tippin.  “We also do special event rides in these old war birds,” he added and even mentioned the possibility of future “fly-ins,” comparing them to an Old Time Cruise In, which would boost the local tourism economy as well.

While maintenance on War Birds of the 1940s is the primary focus of Tennessee Flying Machines, Tippin said they will do maintenance and restoration on antique civilian aircraft as well and also have plans to operate a flight school.

“To find the opportunity to do something like this is very exciting to me, and I look forward to it,” said Tippin. “We’ve been planning this for quite some time. I’m kind of in the silver years of my music life, and this is my passion – aviation.”

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