Press-Republican

December 12, 2012

Support voiced for airport expansion plan

JENNIFER MESCHINELLI
Press-Republican

PLATTSBURGH — An informational open house for the Plattsburgh International Airport Master Plan attracted a small number of people, all supportive of the planned expansion. 

The session Monday night did not include a formal presentation of the plan but was more of a self-guided viewing of the map of the project and related information.

Consultant C&S Company was looking for input from the public before the plan heads to the Federal Aviation Administration for final approval, said Aileen Maguire, a representative for C&S.

BUSINESS BOOST

Most of the members of the public who attended already had an interest in the airport, such as Russell Lawliss, the general manager of Sheltair, which provides general aviation services to Allegiant, Spirit Airlines and most chartered flights that land at the airport.

Lawliss had previous input on the plan on the committee level but attended the session to see how the different components would blend together.

Expansion of existing flights would add to the demand for Sheltair services.

“We are poised to handle more business,” Lawliss said.

Peter Hekkema, an employee for the Hertz location at the airport, is also hopeful about what the expansion would bring.

“I think it’s a good plan, and it will be a good economic boost to the community,” he said. “Hopefully, it will bring more jobs to the area and possibly some additional airlines.”

AMENITIES NEEDED

Hekkema stressed the need for a hotel and restaurants near the airport in order to keep people in the area spending money a bit longer.

In talking with many of the Canadians who utilize the airport, he said, they are always asking if there is a bar/restaurant either in the airport or nearby. He believes it is important to maintain Canadian support of the airport.

“Flying out of Montreal is a hassle,” Hekkema said. “I think that’s why we have the Canadian traffic that we do. I think when it’s built (the expansion), more airlines will come.”

NOISE

And while Ky Ford also supports the terminal expansion, he attended the open house for a different reason — to see what other growth was being proposed for the flight line.

Ford and his family live on nearby Iowa Street and are concerned about the noise coming from another tenant at the airport, the Wood Group Pratt and Whitney Test Cell, located on Colorado Avenue. The company tests aircraft engines.

Ford said the company frequently runs loud engines for sustained periods of time, and his family finds it disturbing.

Out of curiosity, he purchased a decibel meter, which he said registered the noise at about 100 decibels, which he said is well over the acceptable limits for the FAA and OSHA.

While he can hear the passenger aircraft take off, he said, the noise is not very loud and is quickly finished. But he fears for what may later be housed along the eastern perimeter of the flight line and its impact on the houses nearby.

‘RATIONAL PLAN’

Bruce Huffman, an aviation business consultant from Upper Jay, was pleased with what the Master Plan hopes to achieve.

“I think it’s a very, very rational and reasonable approach to keep the airport viable,” he said.

In reviewing the documents, he noticed that 99 percent of the project would be funded with state and federal funds, with modest local contributions.

“If they (county) don’t pursue this very economical and rational plan, then you’ve denied to community,” Huffman said.

“But the airport’s just one component. Before a business will relocate to the North Country, they are going to expect reasonable infrastructure and an educated workforce.”