A quiet-time area featuring bedrooms and computer access stations, a movie theater with plush lounging chairs, and a fitness room are some of the new amenities that private and corporate pilots flying into Lexington's Blue Grass Airport now have available to them.
The features are part of TAC Air's new multimillion-dollar, 12,000-square-foot executive terminal that was unveiled Wednesday.
TAC Air, which serves private and corporate planes and their occupants, and provides fuel and de-icing for commercial planes at the airport, has spent $11 million on improvements there during the past year. In addition to the new terminal, there are three new hangars totaling 45,000 square feet of space and refurbished older hangars.
Wednesday's unveiling also included the presentation of a $50,000 donation by the company to the Aviation Museum of Kentucky, which will lease TAC Air's old terminal. Museum officials, who eventually want to build a museum at the airport, have $1 million for that project but need $9 million more, museum board chairman Ray Garman said.
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TAC Air, which has been in business at the airport for 13 years, initially thought its improvements would be completed by October or November. But with help from builder Hayden Co., the new terminal began operation July 1 and will be available to guests flying into Lexington for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, which begin Sept. 25.
"We didn't want to get done right on top of the Games, that's for sure," said local TAC Air general manager Kip Simanek.
Most of the expected increase in air traffic at the airport during the Games will come from general aviation planes, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
"We're grateful for your investment in our airport," airport board chairman Bobby Owens told officials of Truman Arnold Cos., which owns TAC Air.
Owens said 65 percent of the air traffic at Blue Grass Airport comes from general-aviation planes. Area businesses, sports teams and organ-transplant providers rely on the on-demand air service made possible by TAC Air, Owens said.
The new terminal has a stone façade; in front of it is a row of colorful statues of jockeys. Inside, just beyond the front doors, is a red replica of a Beechcraft Staggerwing suspended from an atrium ceiling. The terminal has a passenger waiting lounge with high-definition television programming, two conference rooms, a laundry and locker room, and a gift shop and art gallery featuring Kentucky art. The entire interior of the building, including the two bedrooms for pilots, is decorated with Kentucky-themed art and photographs.
TAC Air vice president and chief operating officer Christian Sasfai said it was TAC Air's intention to "wow" every person walking through the terminal's doors.
Under the terms of a lease agreement between TAC Air and Blue Grass Airport, which owns the land on which the fixed-base operator does business, TAC Air's $11 million in improvements will be turned over to the airport at the end of 20 years.
TAC Air operates at 12 other U.S. airports. The company considers its Lexington branch to be its flagship facility.