August 10, 2005 - Growing up in Maryland, Charlie Mangum lived a life that most kids - or at least those who aspired to be pilots - only dreamed about.
While his peers were busy building model airplanes and playing with toy fighter jets, Mangum watched in awe of the real thing: the jets that made their nest at Andrews Air Force Base, better known as Home of Air Force One, which was the backdrop to most of his youth.
"Growing up, my dad was a crew chief for F-4s and F-16s. I actually would go out with him to the airport and he would take me around on the flight line," said Mangum, 35. "One of my best memories was going out on the monthly Tuesday night flights, and I'd get to watch them launch the F-4s at nighttime. It was just a blast."
Picturing a young Mangum sitting in the front seat of his father's truck, sporting a bulky set of earmuffs as the loud jets roar into the night - it's not a sight too far off from his current day job. Even during a busy morning, Mangum, director of the Marana Regional Airport, still stops his truck to watch a plane shoot into the sky.
"It's actually a tradition I've even passed on to my son," said Mangum, who has a 15-year-old son, Stephen. "I drag him around to all the air shows. He likes the computer aspect of it."
During a Marana Town Council study session earlier this week, Mangum was expected to give a presentation regarding capital improvement projects starting up at the airport in September. Those include a new parallel taxiway, pavement improvements to the airport's entry drive, and electrical improvements replacing the 20-year-old runway lighting and a new backup generator.
Those projects count for only a small fraction of the many capital improvement projects expected to begin at the airport within the next year, thanks to Mangum, who has brought millions of dollars in federal and state grants to the airport since he came aboard two years ago.
The town, along with Pima Aviation, entered into contracts a few weeks ago with consulting firm Carter & Burgess to help design and plan a new high-end terminal and two-story steakhouse at the airport. Construction could begin within the next 10 months, with two years to completion, said Gary Abrams, president of Pima Aviation, the airport's major lease holder.
"We're looking for something that's going to be pretty nice, upscale, with a parking area, and it'll have some community areas," he said. "For the restaurant, we're planning a lounge and second story observation area. We want to develop it into a large, commercial, high-end, fun airport, and I think we can do that."
Three firms interviewed for the project, but Carter & Burgess seemed the best fit for the town, said Mangum, noting the firm's role in planning the Scottsdale Air Center. The new terminal will front Avra Valley Road east of the existing airport facilities. However, the town's future roadway plans call for rerouting that portion of Avra Valley Road, west of the Central Arizona Project canal, some several hundred feet to the south.
Mangum said the new facilities will set an architectural example for development around the airport in the same fashion that the Marana Municipal Complex is expected to serve as a guiding beacon to the development around the Town Center. The town council adopted a new airport-specific set of architecture and landscape design standards at a council meeting in May.
"We're really in a position to go out there and start marketing the airport," Mangum said.
"That will really be one of my priorities over the next year to start attracting businesses."
The town is just finishing a 120-condominium T-hangar project at the airport because of the large demand for hangar space. The town also recently built 8,340 feet of fencing around the airport.
Marana and Pima Aviation are beginning the design phase for a new corporate jet center planned on a 34-acre site at the east end of the airport, where a new fixed-base operation would cater to the corporate world.
Pima Aviation is working to design a tank farm for additional fuel capacity because, right now, fuel capacity is only 12,000 gallons for each type of fuel, which Abrams said puts business in "a little bit of a bind."
The town is still trying to acquire 75 acres of state land along the east side of the airport for future expansion. Mangum said that a couple of businesses are already interested in leasing the land, including a completion center that could do interior plane work.
"When all is said and done, I view this as being the Scottsdale airport of the south - not complete with commercial jets, though," Mangum said. "It'll be an airport that will support the community and bring jobs. We really view this as the economic hub for the town of Marana."
One condition that's still a hanging cloud to airport development, though, is the need for a sewer system, which could see a groundbreaking possibly in the next five months, Abrams said. Pima County voters approved a $732 million bond proposal last year that included $2.8 million to design and build a sewer system for the airport.
"We're pushing for that because we can't operate big businesses out there or large terminal buildings on septic tanks," Abrams said. "That's the next big step."
Mangum said the town is applying to take part in the Federal Aviation Administration's Contract Tower Program, which would bring a certified air traffic controller to the airport to help increase safety.
With everything that's happening at the airport, Mangum said there's no typical day on his job, but one thing is a given: He's constantly working with consultants to guide and ensure smart growth around the airport.
As of late June, the town is in the process of updating the Airport Master Plan and conducting a Part 150 Noise Study and Land Use Compatibility Study. Mangum said he hopes the town can learn from the pains and problems of other growing communities with airports.
Over the past several years, the town has made significant improvements at the airport in hopes of creating a magnet for major commercial and industrial development. The airport and its surrounding area will be a place Maranans will find well-paying jobs in the future, Mangum said.
"We have the perfect airport as far as land-use capability planning goes," he said. "There are no residential homes and we currently do not have any incompatible land uses around the airport."
However, a look at the town's future development plan included in its General Plan shows a sea of possible housing developments that could be planned around the airport. Mangum fears that could lead Marana down a long road of problems.
A proposed conceptual plan for land use submitted by the Arizona State Land Department is currently under review by the town. Mangum said the plan is a cause for concern because State Land is proposing homes within a mile of the airport, which he said would hinder its growth.
At a recent council meeting, Mangum overlaid the noise contours that Mesa uses for its Falcon Field Airport over a map of the Marana Regional Airport, showing that it wouldn't be compatible if Marana's noise contours are determined similar. He also laid Scottsdale's 2004 noise complaints over the same map.
"The city of Scottsdale currently receives 1,000 to 1,500 noise complaints because they allowed residential development to occur too close to the airport," Mangum said, adding that he knows Marana's airport isn't comparable to Falcon Field or Scottsdale Municipal Airport right now but that the town must look to the future.
Marana's future airport land use compatibility map and airport influence area will be modified over the next year to take into account noise contours and flight paths. Mangum said the land around the airport should be set aside for industrial and commercial use only.
"It just doesn't make sense to put future residents in an area where they will not be happy and constrain the future growth of the airport and our community," he said.
Mayor Ed Honea said proper development of the land surrounding the airport is a high priority for town officials who hope to see the airport create jobs for its residents.
"We're very upbeat on the airport. It's just truly an asset," he said. "It would be a perfect spot for industrial growth - entities that are not affected by air noise, whereas housing would be."
Marana purchased the airport from Pima County in 1999. The airport, formerly known as Avra Valley Airport, is on Avra Valley Road about five miles west of Interstate 10. As a reliever airport, the Marana airport helps take the burden of small aircraft traffic off of Tucson International Airport. Using a reliever airport is especially convenient for corporate jets because it allows them to get fueled and back into the air quickly.
Handling the development aspect of the airport, Pima Aviation subleases properties and hangar space to several businesses at the airport. Current businesses at the airport include Skywords Aviation, Marana Skydiving, Maricopa Aircraft Service and ATW Aviation.
ATW Aviation, standing for "Against the Wind" Aviation, is a full-service warbird maintenance and restoration facility that also specializes in Russian Sukhoi and Yakoleve aircraft. On a recent afternoon, maintenance workers had Marana lobbyist Michael Racy's Sukhoi plane in for an annual checkup.
"We always have stuff in the shop. I can't remember a time when we're just here twiddling our thumbs," said Melissa Donahue, daughter of company owner Bill Muszala. "We love what we do. There's not many people who can just play with old airplanes all day."
Abrams, whose family has been instrumental in developing the airport, including the Sky Rider Coffee Shop and Tucson Aeroservice Center, the airport's fixed-base operation, said it's taken a lot of money and effort to get the airport where it is today.
"We fought Pima County for years to try and let us develop it," he said. "Marana now kind of sees it as a plus to their town because everybody knows business and expansion occurs a lot around airports."
Mesquite trees still stand on airport grounds where future expansion likely will occur. However, a tour of the site today is not without a look to the past. The first aircraft to ever use the call Air Force One and former President Dwight D. Eisenhower's constellation plane Columbine still bask under the sun.
As the town continues to grow, and as more businesses locate in Marana, future companies will be using aircraft to order and deliver products, Mangum said. A handful of businesses already use the airport for business trips.
Mangum was recently presented with the President's Award for outstanding service by the Southwest Chapter of the American Association of Airport Executives.
A graduate of the Florida Institute of Technology, Mangum said it was a summer internship in college at a reliever airport outside of Orlando that led him to realize that airport management was the field for him. He later earned his master's degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautics University while working at Mesa's Falcon Field Airport.
As for seeing through the development of Marana's airport, "I'm very interested in hanging around for a while," said Mangum with a grin stretched across his face. "We have the infrastructure here. You couldn't ask for a better location for an airport as far as land use compatibility is concerned. What the studies will do is ensure we plan smart and plan for the future of this area."