Turbo-prop service is seen as the first step in expansion at airport
We wholeheartedly agree with many of the sentiments expressed in the Aug. 21 editorial “Federal grant gives airport a chance to prove its worth,” especially as it relates to our ability to make a compelling case for the return of daily service to the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport (YNG). That case, based on the advantages we offer the traveling public, the continued growth in passenger traffic, and our ability to secure the Small Community Air Service Development (SCASD) grant that will be an essential component of the proposals we make to airlines, is bringing us closer to securing daily service that ended in 2003. Further, returning daily service to a community where daily service once operated but was canceled, for whatever reason, is a far greater undertaking than starting service where it did not exist.
We must, however, note that your editorial does not accurately reflect the reason why the Department of Transportation withdrew a portion of the funding allocated under the 2007 grant application submitted by the previous airport administration. We concede that the application should have used more ambiguous language in describing the type aircraft YNG was attempting to attract, but disagree that “it was decided locally that turbo-prop airplanes with fewer than 50 seats would best serve the needs of this region.”
That decision was made by the airline industry because turbo-props are more fuel efficient and cost less to operate on the short-haul routes that YNG is attempting to secure than the 50 to 90 seat regional jet that were specifically mentioned in the 2007 SCASD grant application. Had market forces, including skyrocketing fuel costs, not forced the industry to shift away from regional jets to turbo-props, it is likely that the funding you reference would not have been withdrawn. It is also important to note that FAA officials encouraged YNG to re-file for the grant, something they would not have done if they were upset because local officials had gone off on a “tangent” as you allege. Turbo-props are initially the right aircraft to serve the YNG market, given the short-haul destinations being sought after for connecting service and the lower cost to operate the turbo-props. Once the turboprop service sustains itself at YNG, large aircraft, including regional jets, can be pursued.
We have, as you suggested, learned a valuable lesson from this experience. In recognition of the dynamic nature of the airline industry and the intense pressure exerted by a wide variety of competitive factors that can alter the way in which carriers operate, the SCASD grant we submitted and that was approved this year is ambiguous and provides the ability to consider any type of regional aircraft for daily service.
Not only has the grant been approved, the funding it provides has been increased by $205,000.
Dan Dickten, director of aviation, Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport Scott Lynn, chairman of the Western Reserve Port Authority Board