Local Airport ‘Thriving’ Despite No Commercial Air Service
The Chautauqua County-Jamestown Airport is “thriving.”
That according to Louis Nalbone, the owner of three companies providing fixed-base operator services at the airport. A fixed-base operator provides aeronautical services such as fueling, hangaring, tie-down and parking, aircraft rental, aircraft maintenance and similar services.
The three companies owned by Nalbone include Jamestown Aviation, which became the fixed-base operator at the airport in 2000; Chautauqua Aircraft Sales Inc., which was started in 2010 to provide maintenance and original equipment manufactured parts for popular plane models like Cessna and Piper aircrafts; and Dunkirk Aviation, which was also started in 2000 and services a variety of systems and problems. Altogether, the three companies employee around 20 people.
One of the services Nalbone’s businesses provide is hanger space for local manufactures who have its own plane. He said Jamestown Container and Paige Development are two local businesses that lease hanger space for their own planes.
Nalbone said Cummins Jamestown engine plant basically runs their own airline, with one, sometimes two, flights a week coming to the airport during non-winter months.
The only reason Cummins doesn’t fly to the Jamestown airport during the winter is because the runway is too short and larger planes need to land at larger airports due to possibly sliding off the runway. He said Cummins has a lot of freight traffic brought into the airport.
“Their production is linked to us,” he said.
Corporate charters regularly land in Jamestown. Nalbone said in October they had a corporate charter from Nike who flew 16 employees from their headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., to tour the National Comedy Center. He said it was one of the stops on a tour of museums for Nike employees in the Northeast U.S., which also included the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, and the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
During the summer, flights increase dramatically at the airport with tourist and seasonal residents visiting the Chautauqua area.
In 2018, the number of flights in July totaled 504, with an additional 417 in August. During those two months, a total of 1,272 passengers visited Chautauqua County.
“The numbers increase dramatically during the Chautauqua Institution season,” he said.
Nalbone said the airport is also essential for regional hospitals when it comes to transporting organs to medical facilities for transplant surgeries.
As far as maintenance services, Nalbone said people from Ontario, Canada, to airplane owners in Pennsylvania fly in their craft to receive maintenance or to have an annual inspection. Currently, a company from Ontario has a plane in the hanger so Chautauqua Aircraft can install an ADS-B global radar. A company from Youngstown, N.Y., has a plane in the hanger to be modified to allow for sky diving.
People can also learn to fly at the Jamestown airport. Nalbone said Majestic Aviation leases space to operate a flying school. He said the business has three training planes at the facility.
In total, 2,778 flights flew in or out of the airport in 2018, with 3,571 passenger flying into Jamestown. Nalbone said the number of flights are increasing each year, with the three businesses he owns being the “dominate” factor at the airport even when commercial service was still provided.
Nalbone said the airport has a perception as a commercial airport because of the “heyday” of Chautauqua Airlines, which started in 1973. He said it has been many years since the airport witnessed a lot of commercial airline traffic. He said the commuter success at the airport took a downward turn when a venture capitalist company purchased Chautauqua Airlines in the 1980s and the business was eventually moved to Indianapolis in the early 1990s.
Nalbone said he would like a commercial commuter airline to return to the airport in the future because his businesses took a “considerable loss of revenue” when Southern Airways left the airport because of the cut in EAS funding cut in January 2018.
“I want someone to be brought in who will survive,” he said. “Not someone who just wants a two-year contract.”
Nalbone said he has provided a lot of insight to county officials who are working to return commuter service to the airport. The county owns the hangers at the airport, with Nalbone’s businesses leasing the space.
“There are a lot of reasons why people will continue to fly and use this airport,” he said.
For more information, visit jamestownaviation.com.