AvFlight Signs Detroit City Airport’s First 30-year Leasehold, More Upgrades Coming

The first significant initiative in 50 years to rejuvenate Coleman A. Young International Airport (KDET) — located six miles from downtown Detroit to support non-commercial aviation operations — marks a new chapter in the city’s aviation history.
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Avflight will construct a modern terminal measuring a minimum 3,000 square feet, along with a 15,000-square-foot heated hangar next to the existing terminal. // Rendering courtesy of AvFlight

The first significant initiative in 50 years to rejuvenate Coleman A. Young International Airport (KDET) — located six miles from downtown Detroit to support non-commercial aviation operations — marks a new chapter in the city’s aviation history.

Last year, the city received FAA approval to institute a 20-year airport development and strategy design plan. The approval allows Coleman A. Young International Airport to apply for federal funding that would subsidize airport infrastructure upgrades.

As a component of the new rejuvenation effort, the city offered KDET’s longstanding fixed base operator (FBO), Avflight, a 30 year-leasehold, the first such long-term lease in the airport’s history. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The long-term lease not only reflects the city’s confidence in Avflight as the airport’s sole service provider, but also allows the company a path forward to significantly invest in the property.

Beginning this summer, Avflight will construct a modern terminal measuring — at a minimum — 3,000 square feet, along with a 15,000-square-foot heated hangar next to the existing terminal.  At that size, the terminal would fit three medium-sized aircraft.

The structures will enhance the airport’s amenities, services, and security, and in turn will assist KDET in drawing transient visitors, airport tenants, charter operators, and more.

With all four professional sports teams playing in downtown Detroit, along with major annual events like the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Presented by Lear, in addition to multiple concerts and shows, KDET has seen its annual rate of takeoffs and landings on a steady rise.

“There is so much potential at the Coleman A. Young International Airport, and after several years of hard work, residents and visitors alike will begin to see signs of the enormous change to come as Avflight kicks off construction this summer,” says Brad Dick, COO of Detroit. “I look forward to a few years from now, when Detroit once again has a truly state-of-the-art airport within our city limits.”

Avflight has provided essential services to the airport’s flight operations, including fueling, ground handling, and hangar services, since moving onto the field in 2011. They have operated on the airfield since then under short-term leases, earning a reputation over the past 13 years for safely providing care to aircraft, pilots, and passengers, city officials state.

Avflight also aids the city in providing maintenance for the airport’s infrastructure. In doing so, the company has and continues to assist the city in preserving the operational integrity of the airport.

“We’re proud of our operation at KDET,” says Joe Meszaros, vice president of operations at AvFlight. “We’ve always seen the value in preserving Coleman A. Young International Airport’s operations and have worked hard the last decade and a half to not only keep it operational, but also make it a successful enterprise — one that supports the city’s economy by serving as a gateway to Detroit business and as an employer of Detroit’s citizens.”

Other enhancements to the Coleman A. Young Municipal Airport include the recently completed $350,000 LED taxi lighting upgrade and $3.5 million runway renovation. Upcoming projects include a $1.2 million ramp pavement improvement project and $8.1 million engineered material arresting system —a  safety feature to help stop aircraft at the end of a runway.

Further city-planned initiatives include constructing a new control tower with the FAA beginning in 2026, an airport beautification initiative, upgraded snow removal equipment, and establishing educational and community organizations at the airport to promote and host educational opportunities for Detroit citizens.

In time, proponents hope the airport revitalization project provides a pathway to move the Davis Aerospace Technical High School back to the airfield inside the former terminal along Conner Avenue (north of Gratiot Avenue). Currently, the school curriculum is taught at the Golightly Education Center, part of Detroit Public Schools Community District.

In turn, in recent years a laboratory located just south of the terminal was established as a complement to Golightly’s aviation curriculum.

Avflight’s multimillion-dollar complex is a long-anticipated investment for the company. The FBO has successfully executed many such projects with long leaseholds throughout its 26-location network across North America and Europe, including newly constructed FBOs and hangars at Michigan’s Traverse City (KTVC), Grand Rapids (KGRR), and Willow Run (KYIP) airports.

“This transformative partnership with Avflight marks a pivotal moment in KDET’s history,” says Jason Watt, director of Coleman A. Young Municipal Airport. “With a shared vision for innovation and excellence, we are poised to elevate KDET as a premier aviation hub, driving economic growth and opportunity for the City of Detroit and our region.”

The Coleman A. Young International Airport has long been an important transportation hub for the region. It supports a wealth of public services for Detroit citizens, including Certified Aircraft Rescue Firefighting (ARFF), Civil Air Patrol, and the Detroit Police Department’s aviation unit.

It also supports Detroit’s economy by facilitating business travel and promoting tourism with tenants like MyFlight Tours Detroit.

In addition, the airport is a hub for sustainable innovations. KDET is home to Airspace Experience Technologies (ASX), which develops next-generation electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.

The company has built more than 55 eVTOL aircraft for defense, emergency response, and other sectors. ASX now sets its site on large-scale eVTOL aircraft to commercialize electric aircraft — which produce low to no emissions — for public use.

Avflight states it shares the commitment of the Duggan administration to sustainable causes, with vast experience in installing electric charging stations for aircraft, ground equipment, and personal vehicles within its FBO network, as well as experience procuring and handling sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), opening the door to further sustainable opportunities for the airport.

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