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FARMINGTON — More than three years after a fatal plane crash killed former Aztec mayor and airport manager Michael "Mike" Arnold, the city will honor him by dedicating the airport's newly remodeled pilots lounge in his memory.

Commissioners approved the dedication during a meeting Tuesday evening, and a ceremony next week will officially dedicate the lounge. A date for the ceremony has not been set.

The city has invited Arnold's family, as well as pilots who knew him, to speak at the dedication ceremony.

Arnold was killed in May 2013 when he lost control of his single-engine airplane while taking off from the Aztec Municipal Airport's runway. Shortly after Arnold's plane took off, it hit a berm on the right side of the runway. That caused it to spin about 180 degrees and catch fire, according to a report released in June.

Arnold had managed the airport since 1988 and lived there with his wife. City Manager Josh Ray said Arnold was instrumental in promoting the airport and getting its Federal Aviation Administration recognition, which has allowed it access to federal funding.

In 2011, under Arnold's guidance, the city completed reconstruction of the airport's runway to meet FAA guidelines and make it safer for pilots flying in and out of the airport.

In addition to serving as Aztec's airport manager, Arnold served as Aztec's mayor from 1998 to 2001 and from 2004 to 2008. He also served as a city commissioner for several years.

The Aztec airport has not had an official airport manager since Arnold's death, but Ray currently acts as manager of the airport, in addition to his duties as city manager.

Ray said a sign has been installed at the pilots lounge reading, "Mike Arnold Pilot Lounge." He said the sign has two airplanes on it and will be illuminated at night.

"There'll be some lighting to really make it pop," Ray said.

The lounge was recently updated and now features four rooms, including restrooms, a sitting area and a snack room. The snack room also includes a desktop computer with wireless Internet access that pilots can use. Ray said updates at the lounge were completed about a year ago.

"It's very comfortable for pilots to come in and use the facility now," he said.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

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