March 16, 2011 Edition

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UAM makes changes

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

Universal Asset Management plans to continue narrow body disassembly projects at its current facility in Walnut Ridge despite no longer being able to land wide body planes at the airport, according to Keri Wright, Chief Operating Officer for UAM.

The decision was made after Walnut Ridge Regional Airport's engineer, Stacey Morris of Memphis, inspected the ramp and taxiways at the airport and discovered problems caused by the larger planes.

"We had concerns about the weight of the big planes and the possibility of the damage they might cause at the airport," said Dan Coker, airport commission chairman. "We asked Stacey to check things out for us, and he advised us that the large planes were causing significant stress on our ramp and taxiways."

Coker, airport manager Mitch Whitmire and Mayor Don House visited with Wright in Memphis two weeks ago and informed her of the problem.

She told the group UAM would not land any more wide body planes in Walnut Ridge. Narrow body planes will still continue to land here.

UAM currently has over 26 aircraft in various states of disassembly including both narrow body and wide body at its disassembly facility in Walnut Ridge. Wright said UAM's business is expected to increase by 20 percent over the next 12-18 months and will include a significant number of wide body aircraft. In 2011, 45 wide body planes had been scheduled to land at the airport here.

"We are out of room to park that many wide body planes, and their 390,000 pounds empty weight is a significant amount of weight, taking a toll on the ramps and taxiways," said Coker. "It would cost millions to prepare those areas to support that much weight without being damaged."

UAM is opening a wide body disassembly facility in Tupelo, Miss., this month and will transfer its warehouse facilities in Pocahontas and Walnut Ridge to a 453,600-square-foot warehouse in Tupelo.

Although UAM's facility in Pocahontas will be shut down, Wright said they hope the Walnut Ridge airport can accommodate the company's planned arrival of narrow body aircraft for disassembly.

"We are pleased to continue narrow body disassembly projects at our current facility in Walnut Ridge," Wright said.

"When we joined the community over five years ago, our intent -as it remains today - was to create a prosperous and sustainable global business in Northeast Arkansas."

Commissioner Coker said a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) will be published today informing pilots that no wide body planes may land at the Walnut Ridge Regional Airport.

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