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REGIONAL AIRPORT Officials study Akron's growth



Published: Thu, April 21, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



With plenty of room for growth, airport officials are looking for ways to land more planes and passengers.

VIENNA -- The Western Reserve Port Authority is looking at an Akron airport's example to see how new hangar construction could bring more planes to the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.

The airport board discussed the growth of Akron Fulton International Airport, once home to the original airdock for Goodyear blimps.

There are 84 planes based there now, up from about 20 that called the airport home before some 60 hangars were built in recent years at about $40,000 each, said board member Michael Harshman.

More numbers

The reason such a venture looks enticing to the Western Reserve Port Authority is that there are 340 planes in Trumbull County, yet only 40 are based at the Vienna facility -- which has plenty of room for more. The airport covers 1,400 rural acres with a 200-plus-acre aeropark next door, all close to state Routes 11 and 82 and Interstates 80 and 76.

The port authority is working with consultants on a new master plan for growth. Hired earlier this year for $500,000 using 95 percent federal funding were R.W. Armstrong, Cleveland, and Landerum and Brown, Cincinnati, for a year's worth of work. They will inventory airport facilities, assess passenger and cargo demand and general aviation activity and develop a detailed financial plan.

Board member Clarence Smith noted that cargo hangars and related services are the only areas where airports are currently growing.

The airport has cargo facilities ready for immediate use, with a 10-acre aircraft parking area and a 24,000-square-foot adjacent cargo facility, and both have room to grow.

Where to build?

Airport officials are looking at where would be the best spot to build 15 hangars. Smith suggested an open area at the facility's southeast corner; another possible site is an area near the main hangar that already has the required infrastructure.

The airport now has two "T-hangars" that can house six planes each, and businesses at the airport have six of their own hangars.

Where to build new hangars is one of the items the master plan will address. These hangars likely would be made available for long-term leases to plane owners.

"I think once that's determined, and once we get the matching funds, then the project can progress," Harshman said.

He noted that the more economically sound an airport's project is, the more likely matching federal funds will be available.

Contacted

As part of a marketing effort launched by the port authority this year, 60 airlines and cargo carriers have been contacted by airport representatives. Steve Bowser, director of aviation, said the response from cargo carriers has been "very positive."

Bowser said the port authority is negotiating with two airlines. The authority also is trying to replace Vacation Express, which pulled out last year after offering several months' worth of flights to Orlando, Fla., and Myrtle Beach, S.C.

The Florida destinations seem to be the most popular, he noted.

Bowser said it's important for the airport to keep drawing at least 10,000 travelers annually to retain $1 million in federal funding to keep the airport updated. Otherwise, the amount of assistance would be slashed to $150,000, he said.

"The most important thing we can do is a campaign to let the people know that it's [the airport and related facilities] here, and that will work for us," Bowser said.




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