One step closer to takeoff

VIENNA – Officials at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport say they are one step closer to securing daily commercial flights as they await word from a federal agency on usage of a grant set up for startup flights.

”We are getting closer,” said airport Director of Aviation Dan Dickten.

” We are close enough with one (airline) that we are discussing the Small Communities Air Services Development grant with the Department of Transportation,” Dickten added. ”We should have a determination on that within this week. We think they will approve the use of our funding to help sustain this service.”

A $1.2 million Small Communities Air Services Development, or SCAD, grant is available to the local airport to help lure commercial daily service. The U.S. Department of Transportation offers SCAD grants to help address air service and airfare issues in small communities like Youngstown-Warren.

The $1.2 million reimbursement grant is earmarked exclusively to establish an airline commuter hub at Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport. It would be used to guarantee profitability for any airline agreeing to provide regular service at the airport.

Dickten said if approved for usage, he anticipates negotiating at least a two-year commitment with the airline for service at the Vienna airport.

The initial goal, Dickten said, is to secure two round-trip daily flights to a connecting hub at a larger airport. He said discussions also are under way to provide regular shuttle service to Houston for easy access to this area by oil and gas industry representatives.

”We are talking regional jet aircraft, maybe 50-seater,” he said.

Potential profitability studies, non-binding commitments of use totaling $6.2 million a year made last year by area air travelers as part of the port authority’s travel bank marketing strategy, along with potential usage by oil and gas industry executives, are aiding the talks, airport officials have said.

Coupled with the available SCAD grant and public support by non-profit support group YNGAir Partners and other members of the community are big selling points.

In attempts to increase marketing of the airport not only to potential commercial carriers, but also to potential travelers, the Western Reserve Port Authority voted unanimously Wednesday to approve the creation of an Airport Marketing Coordinator. The new position is expected to be paid about $32,000 a year with a goal of using marketing techniques to regain 35 percent of the area’s travelers utilizing air service provided elsewhere.