Pan Am official: Future is bright
A Pan Am hub here is not out of the question, the airline president said.
VIENNA -- The rebirth of carrier service at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport started to happen at a funeral.
Its realization today also has a lot to do with Mahoning Valley residents' ability to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and make things happen, said David A. Fink, president of Pan Am Clipper Connection, run by Boston-Maine Airways.
"It's something we can do to be a part of the rejuvenation of Youngstown," Fink said Tuesday.
He planned to fly in to the airport this morning to meet first with county commissioners and Western Reserve Port Authority members, then local dignitaries, and to announce routes. Youngstown-scheduled flights start Sept. 15.
Fink remembers how the Mahoning Valley used to be, when he lived in Austintown and was working with the Pennsylvania Railroad -- when steel was king.
Those memories of a booming past came back last month when Fink was on hand for the burial in Arlington National Cemetery of his longtime friend and mentor, Bill Grover. Grover, Fink said, was a vice president at Youngstown Sheet & amp; Tube.
"We talked to these folks and so forth about Youngstown," said Fink, 67, now living in New Hampshire.
At the same time the port authority was reaching out to airlines with an aggressive marketing campaign for the airport.
He'd like to see the Valley bounce back. People of this area have been through a lot and have "intestinal fortitude," he said.
"The best thing you've got in Youngstown is the people," Fink added.
He believes the airline venture here has a good schedule that can be expanded, and will work -- if people stay behind it, take the flights and make it a success.
"Everyone's been terrific to us. It's kind of nice -- it's very unusual," Fink said of the reception the airline has received from those who were involved in the talks, from both the Mahoning Valley and also Western Pennsylvania.
Fink said it's not out of the question that the Youngstown-Warren airport could become a Pan Am travel hub at some future point if that's the mind-set people here have and the support is here.
Fink said he's been in the transportation industry for 50 years. When he and his partner, Timothy Mellon, see an opportunity they go after it -- especially if it's appreciated by an area, he added.
"We're into a little bit of everything," Fink explained of the holding company called Pan Am Systems. It owns Boston & amp; Maine and Maine Central Railroad, lumber mills, developments in Boston, as well as the airline.
The Pan Am Clipper Connection's schedule here will work into resort areas -- places such as Orlando/Sanford, Fla.; Clearwater/St. Petersburg, Fla.; San Juan and Aguadilla, Puerto Rico; and Punta Cana and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic -- but that's not the full scope, Fink said.
The airline is now reaching up to Boston/Portsmouth, N.H. and Newburgh, N.Y. to reach people who are traveling for reasons other than leisure, such as business.
"As we get a little more courage, we start expanding our wings," he said.
Fink is optimistic that ventures such as Pan Am at the airport will lead to other developments, including cargo ventures.
"An airport is like a flywheel," he said. All that needs to happen is to put it in motion.
Pan Am Clipper is heir to Pan Am World Airways, which started in 1927 but declared bankruptcy in 1991 after heavy financial losses. In 1998, the Pan Am brand was sold to Guilford Transportation Industries, a railroad company headed by Mellon, from the Pittsburgh banking family.
Guilford stopped operating Pan Am in November 2004, and operations were transferred to Boston-Maine Airways, which resumed service in February. Clipper Connection's headquarters include a 220,000-square-foot facility at Pease International Airport in Portsmouth, N.H. An additional hub for Boston-Maine Airways is at Sanford, Fla.