Of­fi­cials butt heads on air­port name

Milling­ton Re­gional Jet­port cel­e­brates 100th birth­day with con­tro­ver­sial new moniker

The Commercial Appeal - - Local - WAYNE RISHER

The Milling­ton Re­gional Jet­port was good enough for the 2015 Mem­phis Air­show and a 2016 rally for then-can­di­date Don­ald Trump.

But when the Blue An­gels swoop in for the 2017 air­show May 13-14, the Mem­phis-Milling­ton Air­port will roll out the wel­come mat.

Milling­ton’s mu­nic­i­pal air­port is mark­ing its 100th birth­day with a new name that of­fi­cials say is rooted in his­tory and a de­sire to shed the rel­a­tive ob­scu­rity of be­ing Mem­phis’ north­ern sub­urb.

The change has riled Mem­phis In­ter­na­tional Air­port of­fi­cials, how­ever, and the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion says it won’t change the name in of­fi­cial doc­u­ments un­til a trade­mark dis­pute is re­solved.

Milling­ton of­fi­cials be­lieve the air­port is key to the city’s eco­nomic devel­op­ment and mar­ket­ing of an ad­join­ing in­dus­trial park, par­tic­u­larly for avi­a­tion-re­lated ten­ants, Mayor Terry Jones said.

The name change comes at a time when the air­port has at­tracted a flight school run by Crew Train­ing In­ter­na­tional, has launched a pro­ject to im­prove ac­cess to Navy Road and is main­tain­ing long­time ties with FedEx and mil­i­tary avi­a­tion units. Since 1995 the Milling­ton air­port has been FedEx’s des­ig­nated al­ter­nate to Mem­phis in case of emer­gency.

De­spite the ad­van­tages of an 8,000foot run­way, air traf­fic con­trol tower and other Navy fa­cil­i­ties given to the city in the mid-1990s, the re­cent his­tory of the Milling­ton air­port re­flects an iden­tity cri­sis of sorts.

Started as Park Field through a joint ven­ture of the Mem­phis Cham­ber of Com­merce and city of Milling­ton in 1917, the air­field was the cen­ter­piece of Naval Air Sta­tion Mem­phis for more than 50 years.

Af­ter the Navy handed over sur­plus land and tran­si­tioned to Naval Sup­port Ac­tiv­ity Mid-South in the 1990s, the Milling­ton Air­port Author­ity set­tled on Milling­ton Re­gional Jet­port to em­pha­size the abil­ity to land big jets. The author­ity passed on a con­sul­tant’s rec­om­men­da­tion: North Mem­phis Air­port.

Roy Rem­ing­ton, air­port ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for 31⁄2 years, said, “When you meet busi­ness­peo­ple and you shake their The Com­mer­cial Ap­peal Sun­day, April 16, 2017 hand and say ‘I’m the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Milling­ton Re­gional Jet­port,’ they kind of look at you, and they say, ‘Where’s that at? Oh, Mem­phis. I was there last week or last year and I had some bar­be­cue down­town.’ ”

With the switch to Mem­phis-Milling­ton Air­port, “There was this kind of du­al­ity of want­ing to maybe put some light on our his­tor­i­cal roots and also to give our­selves a ge­o­graphic place marker that let peo­ple know where we are,” Rem­ing­ton said.

Jones noted some res­i­dents used to re­ject the tie with Mem­phis. “Some peo­ple felt like, why wasn’t it called Naval Air Sta­tion Milling­ton rather than Naval Air Sta­tion Mem­phis? I can re­mem­ber talks here and there about want­ing it to be Milling­ton, not Mem­phis.”

But hav­ing Mem­phis in the name has a very practical ben­e­fit, Jones said. “A lot of peo­ple, as a pi­lot my­self, if you look at the (In­stru­ment Flight Rules) Sup­ple­ment, you’re go­ing to look for Mem­phis. If it’s got Mem­phis-Milling­ton Air­port, pilots will be able to find it.” The IFR Sup­ple­ment is a pub­li­ca­tion pilots use for flight plan­ning.

The way Mem­phis In­ter­na­tional Air­port of­fi­cials see it, Mem­phis-Milling­ton Air­port in­fringes on an “in­con­testable fed­eral trade­mark.” Mem­phis reg­is­tered the trade­mark in 2006 and has used the name since 1969.

“The name change ap­pears to be an at­tempt to di­vert con­sumers from Mem­phis In­ter­na­tional Air­port to Milling­ton by trad­ing on the good­will of Mem­phis In­ter­na­tional’s name, its brand, and rep­u­ta­tion,” Mem­phis-Shelby County Air­port Author­ity Pres­i­dent Scott Brock­man said in a letter call­ing for Milling­ton to cease and de­sist us­ing the new name.

Of­fi­cials from the two air­ports have dis­cussed the is­sue, and both have said they want to re­solve the dis­pute am­i­ca­bly. Brock­man said he couldn’t com­ment on the sub­stance of dis­cus­sions with Milling­ton.

The name was changed in June, but it ap­par­ently went un­no­ticed un­til pro­mo­tional ef­forts be­gan for the Mem­phis Air­show.

“It’s our high­est pro­file event,” Rem­ing­ton said. “Forty thou­sand peo­ple come out. It fills up the ho­tels, peo­ple buy gas and food in town. Same for the Trump rally. We had peo­ple come from as far away as Nashville.”

For pilots fly­ing to Milling­ton for the air­show, the of­fi­cial des­ti­na­tion will still be Milling­ton Re­gional Jet­port.

Not­ing that the FAA does not ap­prove air­port name changes, agency spokes­woman Ar­lene Salac said by email, “The FAA will not change the air­port name in agency doc­u­ments un­til (Milling­ton Air­port Author­ity) and the Mem­phis-Shelby County Air­port Author­ity re­solve their dis­agree­ment about the name change.”

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