Officials butt heads on airport name
Millington Regional Jetport celebrates 100th birthday with controversial new moniker
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.”