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‘It’s Essential’

Airports Fixed-Base Operator Public Hearing Wednesday

A technician for Chautauqua Aircraft Sales Inc. working on a plane inside a hanger at the Chautauqua County-Jamestown Airport. P-J photos by Dennis Phillips

Following a public hearing, the new fixed-base operator for both county airports could be approved later this month.

During the next meeting of the Chautauqua County Legislature that will take place at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, a public hearing will be held starting at 6:35 p.m. on the potential lease agreement with Centric Aviation to be the next fixed-base operator for both the Dunkirk and Jamestown airports.

Brad Bentley, county public facilities director, said four proposals were received by county officials to be the next fixed-base operator for the airports following the release of the request for proposals to potential operators. He said Centric Aviation was selected because the business has experience enhancing rural fixed-base operations.

“We liked their experience and capabilities,” he said. “It boiled down to they have the experience to run a fixed-base operator in similar conditions to what we were asking.”

Bentley said Centric Aviation is the fixed-base operator of the Apalachicola Regional Airport, which is located west of Apalachicola, Fla., and San Luis Valley Regional Airport in Alamosa, Colo. He said, collectively, Centric Aviation has more than 40 years experience and 15 years experience as a fixed-base operator.

Right, a corporate charter plane parked at the Chautauqua County-Jamestown Airport. In total, 2,778 flights flew in or out of the airport in 2018, with 3,571 passenger flying into Jamestown.

Some of the major points in the lease for both airports include a 20-year contract and the fixed rental fee of $2,500, fuel flowage fee of 15 cents a gallon, 5% of hanger rental revenue and 5% of gross revenue received for flight line services.

Bentley said after the public hearing, the legislature could vote to approve the lease agreements.

The former fixed-base operator, Dunkirk Aviation, left the Dunkirk Airport in October 2017. The Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency has been acting as the interim fixed-based operator until a new company could be found to handle the operations. Bentley said the contract with Jamestown Aviation, fixed-base operator at the Jamestown Airport, will terminate at the end of the month.

ESSENTIAL AIR SERVICE FUNDING

With county officials working to reacquire federal essential air service (EAS) funding and return commercial airline service to the Jamestown airport, Bentley said having a fixed-base operator is an important factor.

“You have to have a fixed-base operation. They have to be there to handle the hangers and to pump the gas,” Bentley said. “It’s essential for the airport let alone commercial air service. The fixed-base operator is your basic operators of the airport.”

Bentley said county officials are continuing their work to reacquire EAS funding to supplement commercial airline service.

“We’ve submitted the application and we are still waiting word back from those folks (U.S. Department of Transportation) on what the decision will be,” he said. “There is no update on when we might expect an answer. Hopefully soon. The case is still open. The public comment period is still open. We’ve received a lot of support from the local business community, private individuals and elected officials. We are enthusiastic about the support and optimistic about the answer.”

In September, state Sen. George Borrello, former county executive, told The Post-Journal that the business community has pledged to provide $75,000 a year in cash for three years as part of the local business community’s subsidy for the airport.

In February, the U.S. DOT announced that it would not be restoring the EAS subsidy for commercial air service at the airport because it was perceived that the last airline failed because there was no local support. The federal government wants the local county and business community to invest in any future subsidy for commercial air service.

The U.S. DOT would like a 10% local contribution to the annual $2,980,688 subsidy provided to the commercial air service provider for three years. In June, the county Legislature approved a resolution that the county would fund $72,000 in cash and $52,000 through in-kind services as part of the local subsidy. As part of the proposal, county officials asked the business community to supply $75,000 in cash and $87,000 through in-kind services.

County officials have partnered with Boutique Airlines on possibly bringing back commercial air service to the Jamestown airport. In June, Ron Almeter, county airports manager, said Boutique Airways took over the commercial air service from Southern Airways at the Johnstown, Pa., airport, in November 2018 with the number of passengers increasing and meeting contractual goals.

The new plan for the Jamestown Airport would also include two destinations with 131 daily departures to the Pittsburgh International Airport and 279 daily departures to the Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

In January 2018, the U.S. DOT terminated the EAS agreement with the Jamestown Airport due to a lack of passengers. Shortly after, Southern Airways left because of the EAS funding cut.

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