Summer Trip to North Central West Virginia Airport | VM News
BRIDGEPORT – The summer has been busy at North Central West Virginia Airport, according to manager Rick Rock.
The airport served more than 5,800 passengers in June and more than 6,300 passengers in July, according to Rock.
“We have certainly seen a lot of pent-up demands come forward this summer,” he said. “People were eager to get out and see the world and go to some good old vacation spots.”
In April 2020, just after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rock reported that the airport had seen an approximately 90% drop in passenger numbers.
“We had 6,600 people on board for the first three months of the year. Now we have had 21 people for the month (April). It’s a spectacular fall, ”he said at the time.
The airport had around 2,000 passengers per month until February of this year, which Rock estimated at around half of the number of passengers the airport would have had before the pandemic.
Some of the airport’s rise in summer passengers can be attributed to recent additions to its flight offerings, Rock said.
“We had five days of Myrtle Beach (flights) and we added Destin (Florida) to our schedule,” he said. “More flights means more people.”
At their June meeting, members of the Benedum Airport Authority, the airport’s governing body, approved a budget of $ 9.275 million for the 2021-2022 fiscal year.
The budget is largely unchanged from last year, Rock said.
“Our budgets are based on historical data, and the main driver of our budgets is the amount of fuel we sell,” he said. “Before COVID-19, we were at about 1.1 million gallons of fuel. In the last 12 to 18 months, we’ve been somewhere around 850,000 gallons. And this budget represents [an estimate] 900,000 gallons of fuel sold.
The airport expects to receive about $ 200,000 in federal grants over the next fiscal year, which will be used to fund various ongoing projects, Rock said.
The airport has around $ 6 million in cash and remains in good financial health, Rock said.
“We try to be very careful with our spending,” he said. “The overall goal for us is a sustainable budget. “
The budget reflects the airport’s ongoing process to recover from the impact of the pandemic, Rock said.
“We were very, very conservative last year when we didn’t know where we were going to go,” he said. “We feel more comfortable this year. It’s all a work in progress, but between the continued investment and the continued growth in flights, we feel comfortable being able to achieve our goals. “
Meanwhile, two major projects are underway on the airport property, Rock said.
“The new Mitsubishi hangars are underway – we are more in the preparation phase than anything else. We are waiting to do whatever we need to be able to get into the big job, ”he said. “Then the relocation of the earth to the new terminal is underway. “
A third project, the construction of a new building that will be part of the Benedum Logistics Park, is expected to begin soon, Rock said.
“It’s a million dollar building that we’re going to do for this,” he said. “We’re really excited about this.”
The Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Regional Jets (MHIRJ) project will see two new hangars covering more than 100,000 square feet built alongside the company’s existing facilities at the airport.
The $ 19.1 million project could create as many as 800 new jobs in the region, company officials say.
“It really positions North Central West Virginia Airport as a core part of the regional aviation infrastructure,” said Anthony Hinton, service center manager for MHIRJ, at a groundbreaking ceremony for the project in June.
MHIRJ’s expansion dates back over a decade, Rock said.
“It’s been a long road and a long journey, and a lot of people didn’t think it would ever happen,” he said. “It’s wonderful – and a wonderful thing for West Virginia. It means so much to this airport, but really to all of West Virginia. As we attempt to diversify our economy, this is a major first step for what we are trying to do and the role we are playing.
The current “dirt removal” project involves leveling a mound of approximately 3 million square feet of earth to create space ready to be developed for the construction of the new airport terminal.
“In 12 to 18 months, you will probably see our groundbreaking work on the new terminal,” said Rock. “Right now, we are doing the design; In 12 to 18 months, we will start building; then another 18-24 months later we will do a ribbon cut.
Senior Editor Charles Young can be reached at 304-626-1447 or [email protected]