No decision yet on airport carrier

WILLIAMSTOWN — The Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport continues to await word from the U.S. Department of Transportation on whether it will have a new service provider.

If the DOT approves the recommendation by the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport Authority to allow Tennessee-based Contour Airlines to fly to and from the airport under federally subsidized Alternate Essential Air Service, the company would not start until Dec. 1. Current provider Via Air would continue to serve the local airport through Nov. 30.

“I would expect that within the next week or so we will get confirmation,” airport Manager Glen Kelly told members of the Wood County Airport Authority, which oversees operations at the facility, during its regular meeting Tuesday.

He’s already been getting calls about holiday travel.

“You’re able to book into October, maybe November online,” Kelly said.

The Mid-Ohio Valley authority, the airport’s marketing arm, voted in July to recommend Contour’s service to Charlotte Douglas International Airport over incumbent carrier Via, which was selected with much fanfare and optimism two years ago, based primarily on its reliability. But as Via expanded to more airports, those figures faltered, with regular maintenance leading to multiple cancellations.

Via logged completion rates of 98 and 100 percent in July and August, respectively. Enplanements numbered 359 in July and 360 in August, 20 below and 35 higher than those months in 2017.

Kelly said the company has ceased flights to Orlando on Sundays due to declining numbers he attributes to a seven-hour layover in Charlotte for the once-popular route.

In other business, Kelly told authority members he had not gotten interest from private companies in constructing a larger hangar to lease to Contour for its 30-seat jet.

“Being able to bed it down, maintain it, I think is key to good, reliable air service,” he said.

It seems the best approach now will be modifying an existing hangar, Kelly said, something he is discussing with the airport’s engineer, Michael Baker International.

“They feel they can do it for $350,000,” he said. “They believe it can be done for less money with the right contractors.”

Kelly said he will be seeking contributions for the project.

A $44,800 contract to remove and top trees on neighboring property that were obstructing approaches to the airport’s runways was recently completed by Straight Up Tree Service. Originally expected to remove 22 trees and top 68, they ended up doing 30 and 130, respectively, without raising the cost. The eight additional trees cut down were on airport property adjacent to the neighboring land, Kelly said.

The Wood County Commission recently approved an $80,000 contract with Whitetail Tree Service in Waverly to address tree obstructions in Veterans Memorial Park. Kelly said that work is expected to be completed by the Federal Aviation Administration’s Oct. 15 deadline, but other obstructions will take one-and-a-half to two years to address due to environmental requirements.