Longtime FBO Ceasing Operations At Dunkirk Airport

Dunkirk Aviation and Sales Inc., is ending aircraft maintenance and service at the Dunkirk Airport effective Oct. 31. County Executive Vince Horrigan said he’s been in talks with two fixed-base operators to take over service at the airport. Photo by Jimmy McCarthy

SHERIDAN — Aircraft service and maintenance at the Chautauqua County-Dunkirk Airport has been led by the Nalbone family dating back to the early 1960s.

But come Oct. 31, the fixed-base operation under the current ownership of Louis Nalbone will come to an end at the Dunkirk Airport.

“It was so hard of a decision that I put it off a number of years,” Nalbone said. “It’s a long history that I personally have with it.”

In September, Nalbone sent County Executive Vince Horrigan a letter stating that he would be ceasing operations at the airport. The decision came due to financial hardship facing Dunkirk Aviation and Sales Inc., one of two companies operated by Nalbone.

“We just hung on and hung in there as long as we could, and we couldn’t stay any longer,” Nalbone said regarding his operation in Dunkirk.

The fixed-base operation provides refueling and hangaring to clients among other services like flight training, which is now being conducted in Jamestown. The business began in late 1945 when John J. Nalbone Sr. founded a flight school at Werle Airport. He opened the school following time spent teaching U.S. Army Air Corp pilots how to fly during World War II.

In the early 60s, Dunkirk Aviation moved from Werle Airport to the Dunkirk Airport.

From his younger days, Nalbone said he witnessed many improvements to the airport’s runways and building hangars. Nalbone noted the airport’s vital role to the continued recovery and development of the north county.

With service set to end later this month, Horrigan and the county will need to find a replacement — and soon. Horrigan told legislators at a recent Public Facilities Committee meeting that he’s talked to two fixed-base operators. Horrigan said it will take some time to get something done.

“We’ll look at options to make sure we have the best interest of the county in place, and at the same time, our sincere desire is to continue operations up at that facility and be able to service the customers and do it safely and appropriately,” he said.

While all options are open, Horrigan said he doesn’t want to get the county into the aircraft maintenance and service business. Horrigan told legislators in September that he would like to see Nalbone extend the time frame out a couple more months. The lease between the two parties at the Dunkirk Airport had a few more years left before expiring.

Nalbone said he’s planning on ending the maintenance and service operation in Dunkirk on Oct. 31. He said he’s continuing to work with the county cooperatively.

Nalbone’s other company, Jamestown Aviation Co., will continue as he acknowledged business at the Jamestown Airport is doing well. In 2015, the county approved a fixed-base operator and hangar lease agreement with the company at the Jamestown Airport. The lease is for five years with an option to renew for two additional five-year terms.

“We’ve created a destination (in Jamestown) for people who want their aircraft serviced and modified, and that’s been going well,” Nalbone said.