Roswell International Air Center
Business View Magazine interviews representatives of the Roswell International Air Center, as part of our series on regional American airport.
The Roswell International Air Center (RIAC) is located five miles south of the central business district of the City of Roswell and is the core of southeastern New Mexico’s industrial activity. RIAC was originally an army airfield and training facility during the Second World War. The facility then served as part of the U.S. Strategic Air Command Nuclear Deterrent Program. In 1967, it was closed by the Air Force and the 5,000-acre property was transferred to the City of Roswell, becoming its municipal airport and aviation-related business park.
Today, various industries are located at Roswell International Air Center, including those that store, refurbish, and dismantle airliners. Airlines from around the world store, repair, and obtain parts from the giant aircraft that are already parked, or being worked on, at the facility. The Airport also has commercial service with American Airlines’ scheduled flights to and from Dallas/Ft. Worth and Phoenix, as well as general aviation aircraft that call RIAC, home.
Growth and expansion are always on the agenda at Roswell International Air Center, as is normal and necessary maintenance. Two years ago, the Airport completed a $22 million reconstruction project on its 13,000-ft. long runway, 3/21, and this past year, its 10,000-ft. runway, 17/35, underwent a million dollar asphalt refurbishment. “We completed that in January,” says Air Center Director, Scott Stark. “It’s all repaired and back up to its published strength. So, of course, we’re taking advantage of that and stay busy with aircraft using it. The Navy came in with 25 Texan-2s in January through April, and wound up with about 35 aircraft, halfway through. They had an extremely successful detachment; they came in with a goal of 4,000 flight hours and they left having accomplished over 7,000 flight hours. That was a good example of why that runway repair and rehab was very important to us, because that was the main runway that they used.”
Another recent project concerned the replacement of the ancient electrical grid that Roswell International Air Center inherited from the Air Force when it left over 50 years ago. Since the local electric provider, Xcel Electric, couldn’t obtain parts for the system’s many outmoded components, it needed to perform a complete upgrade with new substations and primary lines, while concurrently ramping up the grid’s power output from 4K to 12K. “The electrical grid is probably about 99.5 percent complete,” Stark reports. “The electric company has got almost all of their work done; they’re finishing up making the final connections to buildings and taking the old substations out. They have three substations they have to demolish – two of them are about 50 percent gone, so that project is well on its way and will be completed by the end of this year.”
An ongoing project at RIAC is the creation of a land-use map that will help determine what areas of the Airport could potentially be utilized for both aeronautical and non-aeronautical uses. “The purpose of the land map is looking at how we would arrange, for instance, an industrial park,” says Stark. “Basically, we have a good Master Plan that lines out where aeronautical revenue generating and non-aeronautical revenue generating will go, but we don’t have it down to the point of saying ‘this is warehousing, this is manufacturing, that is commercial buildings, and the other thing is offices.’ We haven’t really drilled down to that level. That’s ongoing and involves a lot of potential, future expansion on our southeast side where we have, roughly, a thousand acres that can be developed.”
Another ongoing project at Roswell International Air Center, related to the land-use map, concerns the Airport’s terminal. An expansion concept study has been completed and now the funding process is underway. Stark explains: “There’s a part of the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program’s funds that is a set-aside for airports that have come out of the military, like this one. The program was originally set up for Air Force bases that came out of the BRAC closures. We were not one of those – we were about ten years before, so we had not previously qualified to receive those grants. However, for the last three years, we have applied for them. We knew we were not going to get it, but we wanted to build a case for our need for that grant. Our thoughts were that we had the exact same needs as anyone else who had a base close, and in this town, in particular, it just killed the economy in ’67 when they closed it, and realistically, we probably have not fully recovered. We’re only now getting to the point where we think we’re almost to where we were before.
“The point is that we felt that, just because of bad timing, we were left out of that process. So, we went through the process of applying and getting denied, and then we worked through our Congressman’s office to have legislation done that would modify that act that established that grant. And we were successful. So, as of January of this year, it was changed and we became eligible. They opened up another grant in April and we applied. We have not gotten an acceptance letter yet, but as we go through this now with the FAA, it’s a very different story. We now are eligible for this grant, and we’ve gotten past ‘No, you don’t qualify.’ They’re asking a lot more questions; they’re digging deeper. Our FAA Airport District office is going to bat for us at headquarters in Washington. I won’t speculate on whether we’ll get it or not, but, at least, this time, we can’t be summarily dismissed. I say all of that because our main project request with the map is our terminal.”
Mayor of the City of Roswell, and Chairman of the Airport Advisory Commission, Dennis Kintigh, elaborates: “That was the integral part of our application for this map grant – that we would start the process of expanding the terminal, because one of the things we’re doing, right now, is also applying for a Small Community Air Service Development Program grant that would be part of an effort to get service from Roswell to Denver. This would be via a different airline, in all likelihood, United. We’ve not had official conversations with them, but we’re starting back-door discussions. This grant would help us with a minimum revenue guarantee to get the service. This is actually moving a lot faster than I had anticipated; we submitted our grant application in July, so the terminal becomes increasingly critical. Right now, we’re barely able to function with the air service to and from Dallas and Phoenix. If we get Denver, that’s going to be a lot more challenging with the existing facility. I’m concerned we may get the service before we can get the terminal upgraded and one of my concerns is that the scenarios we’ve looked at involve upgrading the existing facility while we’re still trying to work in it. That’s going to be challenging – no two ways about it. But, we’re very excited at the positive responses we’ve gotten about going to Denver.”
Two upcoming infrastructure projects are also on the city’s and the Roswell International Air Center’s agendas. One is a potential upgrade to the interconnection between the Airport and the local road system. “It’s about a seven tenths of a mile stretch of road that requires the rebuild of an intersection with a major north/south highway,” says Kintigh. “The intent is to upgrade the intersection so that it’s easier for businesses, truck traffic, and individuals to access the Airport. We have met with the State Department of Transportation and the County. It’s on the wish list. There’s a new fiscal year here that started in July and we’re striving to get on that list. The state legislature did some major changes to highway funding in their session that ended in March, and we’re waiting to see. The only thing that’s preventing us moving forward is the dollars; once we have the dollars, we can go forward.”
“The other infrastructure project that the city is undertaking – actually the city water department – is the upgrade of the water system here,” Kintigh continues. “We have a 1943 water tower that was left over from the Air Force base; it’s 500,000 gallons. That tower is going to be replaced with two 750,000-gallon towers that are in the design phase. The RFP has gone out for bidding to have this construction done. This project is being completely funded by the city water department and will provide an improvement in the flow of water. Between this and the electrical system, we’ll be able to expand industrial operations here at the Airport.”
Kintigh adds that the Airport Advisory Commission has also sent out an RFI, a Request for Information, to companies that might want to construct a large hangar at RIAC – one able to handle a Boeing 777. “We’ve got the land, and we’ve been talking about this because one of our impediments to further development is the age and size of our existing hangars,” he notes “They simply are not large enough to handle the really large planes or multiple smaller ones. One of the interesting aspects of this effort is that under the 2017 Tax Reform Act, Opportunity Zones were created around the nation, and RIAC is an Opportunity Zone. So, we are promoting that fact in an effort to attract additional business.”
Aaron Maurer is the Regional Manager of Avflight, the Roswell International Air Center’s FBO. Recently, it served as the host to the Mitsubishi Company which came to RIAC to test a regional jet it had designed and developed. “We enjoyed having Mitsubishi here,” he remarks. “Testing is our bread and butter and we’re always looking to better our service. With the help of the Airport, we provided a one-stop-shop to get their testing done. We look at the FBO as the face of the community, and it’s always a pleasure to have these groups come in because the whole city benefits – hotels, restaurants, tourism.”
Avflight is also upgrading some of its amenities. “A year and a half ago, we replaced all the pumps and motors at the fuel farm,” Maurer states. “It’s kind of an old facility, so next month, we’re going to be replacing the roof, and hopefully, by the end of the year, the FBO is going to have a remodel to get the facility up to date with modern standards. It’s always about providing the best service we possibly can from the single Cessna 172, to test groups, to the military; we want them to have a memorable experience when they come into Roswell.”
RIAC’s Deputy Director, Mark Bleth, talks about some of the Airport’s future initiatives, including some research and development opportunities, such as those concerning high altitude balloons. “That market is a huge opportunity where we can bring the internet to remote places in the world by the use of these stratospheric balloons,” he explains. “And they’re located here at Roswell because of the technical merit of the airspace and the weather.” Another initiative concerns the Airport’s collaboration with aerospace companies that test new aircraft at the nearby White Sands Proving Grounds. “Lockheed Martin just made an announcement about their passenger-carrying, hypersonic planes, and Boeing has invested in a company,” he adds. “So, we see a lot of potential opportunity there with our relationship with White Sands.”
Bleth is also reaching out to Denver International Airport, as well as the aeronautical businesses in that part of the country, to better establish the relationships between those entities and RIAC, as it works on setting up commercial air service to Colorado. “Denver has one of the largest aeronautical clusters in the country,” he notes, “and we are now sister airports with Denver International. We’re their only domestic sister airport, and one of four in the world. So, we’re building ties with Denver International to connect the two.”
Kintigh believes that it’s that sort of relationship building that is key to obtaining future business at RIAC. “We’re leveraging the work that our partners like Avflight have done to solidify relationships with these manufacturers, like Boeing and Mitsubishi, to go deeper into their management structure to find more contacts and bring them here on a more permanent basis. With Mitsubishi, for example, we’ll have a conference call with one of their high-level managers regarding a wide-body hangar here or, perhaps, a future location of their processing center. Or when they fly a plane from Japan and they need to onboard it somewhere in the country, or whatever regulatory things they might need to address, as well as the sale of the airplane, we can do that in a tax-free environment in New Mexico.”
“So, we’re continuing to try and expand opportunities, here,” Kintigh says in conclusion. “By that, I mean, we don’t want to be a one trick pony; we’re pushing in many directions. Not all of them will come to fruition – that’s just the nature of the beast. But, you keep trying to identify new opportunities. And you do it in collaboration with the solid partners we have down here, Avflight being the classic example. The takeaway is we’re constantly working on enhancing the options for aviation business here in Roswell.”
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AT A GLANCE
WHO: The Roswell International Air Center
WHAT: A municipal airport and aviation-related business park
WHERE: Seven miles south of Roswell, in Chaves County, New Mexico.
Dean Baldwin Painting – www.deanbaldwinpainting.com
Dean Baldwin Painting was founded in 1965 and in 2015 celebrated 50 years of continuous operation under the same family ownership. For the first thirty-five years in business, Dean Baldwin Painting was the primary provider of painting services to most of the major MROs located at the Miami International Airport. The Miami location was closed December 2003.
In 1999, the company expanded its operation by acquiring the large 165,000 sq. ft. hangar in Roswell, NM and converting it to a full service aircraft strip and refinish facility. The hangar located at the Roswell International Air Center is Dean Baldwin Painting’s premier facility for VIP and U.S. Government painting as well as commercial airline aircraft painting. The facility currently employs approximately 120 to 140 full time employees.
Today, in addition to the Roswell location, the company has facilities in Peru, Indiana; San Antonio, Texas; and Goodyear Arizona. Dean Baldwin Painting, LP is registered in SAM (System for Award Management) as a minority, woman-owned, small, privately-held business specializing in aircraft strip and paint services.