Competition Not Only In The Air, Also On The Ground For Hangar
Competing for a lease on the same hangar space, two St.
Petersburg, FL-based banner-towing companies are at odds...
The feud concerns rivals Advertising Air Force and Florida
Aerial Advertising, operators who have been in competition for
about 30 years. The relationship has been a strained one at best,
with criticisms of each other's safety records at the
In fact, the firms had safety records so blemished that the City
of St. Petersburg once banned both companies from operations at St.
Pete's Albert Whitted Airport (SPG).
The current beef is over leased hangar space at SPG, brought
into contention by the October 25 passing of Advertising Air
Force's founder, Tom Merrifield. City documents show that
AAF's lease was sold by Merrifield the day before he died to
another banner-towing company, Aerial Banners North.
Bill Bruckner, founder of Florida Aerial Advertising, sought an
injunction to block the transfer of the lease, which had about two
years remaining. Calling the transfer illegal, Bruckner's attorneys
questioned how a man "literally on the verge of death" was able to
sell his business, the St. Pete Times reported.
Assistant City Attorney Mark Winn said, "What we had before us
was what appeared to be a valid assignment of a lease." Bruckner,
disputing the process, instead proposed the hangar space should be
open to bids.
A twist to the tale involves a new version of Advertising Air
Force, which is currently sub-letting the sought-after hangar from
Aerial Banners North. "I plan on running a tighter ship," said new
owner Kevin Wilson.
Bruckner's suit for an injunction failed, and the City Council
passed the transfer on December 18. Winn said that when the lease
expires in 2010, the hangar will be put up for bid.