The presence of an airplane repair school at the local airport is a key factor, the senator said.
By ED RUNYAN
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
VIENNA — State Sen. John Boccieri has written to Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, asking that the state encourage Continental Airlines to create an aircraft repair facility at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.
Boccieri, of New Middletown, D-33rd, said the encouragement could be part of the state’s current talks with the airline about helping it with $16 million to expand its operations at the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.
“The Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport can play a significant role in the company’s expansion,” Boccieri said.
He said the existence of an aircraft repair school at the airport run by the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics is perhaps the biggest draw for locating the repair facility here.
“This school for airframe and power-plant repairs produces some of the finest airline mechanics who leave Ohio after their education for jobs outside of the state,” Boccieri wrote to Fisher. The school began its first classes in October 2006.
Boccieri said Cleveland Hopkins does not have room enough to allow for an aircraft repair facility there. “There’s no room left,” he said.
In his letter to Fisher, who is also director of the Ohio Department of Development, Boccieri said the airport has 1,400 acres, a 9,003-foot runway that supports virtually all types of aircraft and is “not congested like busy airspace in Cleveland or Pittsburgh.”
‘Good business sense’
Boccieri said Continental flies its planes to New Jersey or Texas for repairs, but with fuel prices being high, it makes “great business sense” to have a maintenance facility close to Cleveland, Continental’s second largest U.S. hub.
The airport’s director, Steve Bowser, is also expected to write a letter to Fisher, detailing the facilities the airport could provide, Boccieri said, including 10 acres of land that are available for immediate expansion on the western side of the airport near Ridge Road, just opposite Aeropark Drive.
Bowser said the 10 acres are already paved with concrete and were designated in the airport’s most recent master plan as a cargo area. That area will be designated as general-purpose aviation in the next master plan.
Preliminary negotiations with Continental indicate the airline is considering $35 million in construction, $4 million for renovations and $4 million for new equipment. Continental has said the expansion would allow it to provide nonstop flights to Paris beginning in summer 2008.
“The potential expansion of Continental offers a great opportunity for all of Northeast Ohio, and the economic spinoff could be substantial,” Boccieri said.