By Ed Runyan
Officials praised the start of construction of 14 T-hangars for housing aircraft at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport as a signal that the airport will soon regain its position as an important Mahoning Valley transportation hub.
Eleven of the tenants moving into the hangars will move out of existing hangars, but three new planes will be coming to the airport, said Dan Dickten, director of aviation.
The construction, expected to be complete this winter, is taking place near a new taxi lane being built near the entrance to the airport at state Route 193.
The airport also is undergoing many other sidewalk, parking and building improvements.
Carol Rimedio-Righetti, Mahoning County commissioner, was among the public officials attending a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday. She recalled earlier times when people came to the airport because there were flights going to places around the world.
Rimedio-Righetti said she remembered coming to the airport as a child just to see large airplanes in action.
Many officials said they are hoping the new construction costing $470,000 and more than $3 million in other improvements will fuel a new appreciation for the facility.
“I am excited to see that this is starting,” Rimedio-Righetti said. “This [airport] is the jewel of Mahoning County and Trumbull County. We hope state and federal officials will become aware that this is the best small airport in the country.”
Dan Polivka, Trumbull County commissioner, added: “Make no mistake. The stronger our airport becomes, the stronger Mahoning and Trumbull counties become.”
Phil Pegg, a Vienna Township trustee, said the airport has been called a “black hole” in the past because of the amount of public money used to operate it.
“It’s no longer a black hole. It’s a light for the Mahoning Valley and Northeast Ohio, and it will continue to shine bright,” said Pegg, who regularly attends meetings of the Western Reserve Port Authority, which runs the airport.