Uptick in passengers at regional airport

WILLIAMSTOWN – The Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport has experienced a swell in passengers in the last three years, with the second quarter of the year as the busiest in six years, according to numbers provided by the airport’s carrier Silver Airways.

“There were 2,197 passengers for the quarter,” said airport manager Terry Moore. “We are on track to break 8,000 (passengers) for the year pretty heartily, which was our goal for the year.”

The enplanement numbers for June were 736.

“We were hoping to break 800, but that wasn’t to be,” Moore said.

The lower than expected number of passengers was due to six canceled flights – five for maintenance issues and one because of bad weather. Silver Airways provides 48 flights per month from the local airport to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport in Cleveland.

In May, 772 people used the commercial service to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. This is the second largest number of passengers in six years with June 2012 having recorded 800 passengers.

Last year was the busiest year for the airport with 7,800 enplanements, up from roughly 7,500 passengers in 2011.

Passenger numbers are important because airports that have at least 10,000 enplanements per year receive $1 million in federal Airport Improvement Project (AIP) funds annually, airports with fewer passengers receive $150,000.

Fuel sales also increased from May to June with 32,000 gallons sold last month.

“It’s a pretty rare occasion when we break 30,000 in the month,” Moore told the board members.

For the fiscal year 2012-2013, which ended June 30, the airport sold 309,000 gallons. The closest year was 2008 when the air show held at the facility had F-18 jets and the airport saw 272,000 gallons sold.

Fuel sales are the one money maker for the airport and how they pay utility bills and payroll.

In other business:

* The airport authority, which is the managing arm of the facility, approved to allow Moore to research how other airports throughout West Virginia lease hangar space in order to modify the lease structure.

Moore said he spoke to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regarding having new hangars built at the airport and was told they must have a land lease.

“The traditional lease the airport has done is $1 per year and I was told that is not enough,” Moore said. “I’m thinking of a flat rate, a percentage of what would have been the personal property tax, percentage of the building cost, etc.”

Moore said he doesn’t think the change is bad, just different because he does not plan on making the cost crippling for new renters, just enough to satisfy the FAA.

“This is a new wrinkle that just came up and as part of the next month, Terry will research this with what other airports in the state do so a decision can be made,” said board vice president John Pfalzgraf.

* Local pilot Kenyon Cox, who is also a member of the marketing arm of the airport, approached Moore about building a new roughly 7,000-square-feet hangar to house a jet.

In March the board unanimously approved the construction of a new hangar by current renter Glenn Hale.

“We have had a lot of interest lately for current renters to build their own personal hangars here and rent the land,” Moore said.