Daily flights from Youngstown to Cleveland taxi toward 2012 reality

By Ed Runyan



Negotiations are finally moving in the direction of restoring daily air service to the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, the airport’s director reported Wednesday.

The Western Reserve Port Authority, which runs the airport, authorized Dan Dickten, director of aviation, to continue negotiations with Gulfstream International of Fort Lauderdale.

The airline could start up flights between the local airport and Cleveland Hopkins International Airport as early as the first three months of 2012, Dickten said.

He said he hopes to have a contract for the board to discuss at the port authority’s meeting in January.

Dickten said he expects fares would be “reasonable” in price but didn’t know exact amounts. From Cleveland, travelers could connect with 60 destinations across the United States and Canada.

Airport officials have tried for years to restore daily service to the airport. When Dickten was hired in March 2010, he made it a priority to provide a service that would bring business travelers back to the local airport. The last time the airport offered daily service was 2003.

Gulfstream operates more than 100 scheduled flights daily to and from airports in Florida, the Bahamas, Montana, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Among the airports in the region offering Gulfstream flights are Franklin, DuBois and Bradford, Pa.; Jamestown, N.Y.; and Parkersburg, W.Va, according to the Gulfstream website.

The Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport would provide Gulfstream with a revenue guarantee to start up the service. Two-thirds of the guarantee would come from a $575,000 U.S. Department of Transportation Small Community Air Service Development Program grant the airport received in October 2007.

The other third would have to be raised locally. Dickten said the organization YNGAir Partners has pledged to help the airport raise the matching money.

If the service were self-supporting, none of the revenue guarantee money would be touched, Dickten noted.

In the beginning, Gulfstream International would offer two round-trip flights here Monday through Friday, one Saturday and one Sunday.

For that level of service, the airline would need a revenue guarantee of $300,000 — $200,000 of which would come from the federal grant.

Airport officials were granted a one-year extension of the grant earlier this year and hope to receive another extension in the coming weeks.

The airport has spent some of the $575,000 grant on consulting fees but still has $513,705, Dickten said.

The Gulfstream fleet is comprised of 21 Beechcraft 1900D aircraft with a maximum seating capacity of 19 passengers, each powered by fuel-efficient jet-turbine engines.

Gulfstream operates under agreements with Continental Airlines, United Airlines and Copa Airlines. Gulfstream earlier this month changed its name to Silver Airways Corp.

Gulfstream International Airlines, which filed for bankruptcy in November 2010, primarily served Florida and the Bahamas beginning in 1988.

An investment firm acquired some of Gulfstream’s assets just after the bankruptcy and launched an entirely new corporate entity known as VPAA Co., doing business as Gulfstream International Airlines, in May 2011.

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