WILLIAMSTOWN-The Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport had its beginnings as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project in 1940 when crews began clearing a Wood County, W.Va., hilltop west of County Route 31 and about four miles south of Williamstown.
Land for the $5 million National Defense project was donated by Wood County, and by 1946 American Airlines was providing commercial passenger air service out of the new Wood County Airport.
Over the next decade two more airlines, Allegheny and Piedmont, began an era of passenger service at the regional airport that would last until 1980.
SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
A 19-passenger Silver Airways plane unloads passengers at the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport recently. Silver Airways has provided daily commercial passenger service at the airport for the last four years.
Photo courtesy of Mid-Ohio Valley Airport
This photo of the original hangar at the Wood County Airport was taken during dedication ceremonies in 1946. Construction on the airport facilities began as a Works Progress Administration project in 1940.
An early pilot and his plane at Wood County Airport.
That's about the time Bill Richardson, a former private pilot and current president of the Wood County Airport Authority, came on board. He said the airport has had its ups and downs, but it has always played an important role in local economic development.
"In the early 1970s we had enplanements of 35,000 to 40,000 passengers a year," he said. "Last year we had about 8,000. I don't know that we'll get back to 40,000 commercial passengers a year, but there is a magic number-10,000-that allows us to obtain more federal funding. We'd like to have more than that, but we would be pleased to get to the 10,000 mark, and I think we're moving in that direction."
Richardson said while the commercial passenger service is important, area businesses also make good use of the airport facilities.
1940-Construction on the Wood County Airport officially begins as a Works Progress Administration project.
1944-The final phase of initial construction starts as a National Defense project. Land was donated by Wood County and construction costs totaled $5 million.
1946-American Airlines provides initial service at the airport as the first commercial carrier.
1949-Allegheny Airlines begins service and continues through 1980.
1955-Piedmont Airlines initiates commercial service that ends in 1979.
1961-Lake Central Airlines replaces American Airlines as a commercial carrier.
1971-Federal Aviation Administration control tower is dedicated.
1976-Current passenger terminal is built as the airport's third terminal.
1978-Christman Air Systems provides commuter service through 1982.
1980s-Comair, Aeromech, Transmidwest, and Wheeler airlines all provide services briefly.
1990s-Crown Airlines, later purchased by Mesa Air Group, provides commercial service as U.S. Airways Express through May 2006.
2007-Colgan Air, flying as U.S. Airways Express, provides passenger service to Pittsburgh.
2009-Silver Airways begins commercial service to Cleveland.
2014-Silver Airways announces it will no longer provide flights to Cleveland. The Department of Transportation orders the airline to continue service until the airport authority finds another carrier.
Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport
Owned by Wood County, W.Va.
Location 543 County Route 31/1, Williamstown .
Offers non-stop service to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.
More information at flymov.com
"In the past, companies like Borg-Warner, General Electric, and DuPont were chartering business flights out of the airport," he said. "At one point DuPont had flights twice a week to their headquarters in Delaware."
Today some companies have their own planes and regularly fly clients and employees in and out of the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport.
Until this year Washington County Commissioner David White sat on the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport Board, which operates in conjunction with the Wood County Airport Authority. He recently turned that seat over to Commissioner Tim Irvine.
"The mainstay of the airport is business travelers at this time," White said. "And there are a lot of oil and gas industry people now traveling between here and Houston, Texas who don't want to fly into Columbus or Pittsburgh and drive a couple of hours to get to the Mid-Ohio Valley."
He said the availability of a regional airport is important for business and development in this area.
"If we want economic growth and industry here, we have to have good airport facilities," White added. "From a development standpoint the Mid-Ohio Valley Airport is essential."
Richardson said the airport authority members are well aware that the traveling public would like to have more options to fly into other cities from Wood County.
Currently Silver Airways provides commercial passenger service through the hub airport in Cleveland. Silver Airways recently announced it would no longer provide that service at Wood County, but the U.S. Department of Transportation stepped in and has ordered the airline to continue service until another carrier can be located for the site.
"We try to court more air carriers, but unfortunately that's not been successful," Richardson said. "The airlines pretty much tell us what they want to do, and we have little control over that."
He said when a problem with airline service crops up people will storm into the airport authority offices and complain.
"But those issues are often out of our hands. We don't control the airlines," Richardson said.
He noted the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport is among the top five largest air facilities in West Virginia.
"As a pilot I flew into airports at Myrtle Beach, New York City, the Finger Lakes, Washington, D.C., and Norfolk," Richardson added. "And I can truly say we have a wonderful airport in comparison to many others."