Port Authority working toward passenger service

VIENNA — Members of the Western Reserve Port Authority’s Aviation Committee met Tuesday to chart its progress in landing a commercial airline by next spring.

John Moliterno, executive director of the port authority, said the organization continues to improve the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport it manages to make the site more attractive to airlines offering passenger service. Moliterno added that some of the group’s efforts to maintain the airport may go unnoticed.

“For the airport to stay up and running, we have to do these things,” Moliterno said, citing ongoing maintenance such as painting and lighting systems that are inspected by the Federal Aviation Administration to determine eligibility for federal grants. “Our guys have done a great job. The FAA is very serious about these things.”

One grant the airport depends on is the Small Community Air Service Development Program, an FAA grant program intended to bolster small airports around the country. The port authority has $600,000 in SCASDP funding tucked away, 65 percent of which is federal money, with the remaining 35 percent coming from the port authority.

Moliterno said the port authority will ask for the funding to be extended into next year. The money acts as an offset for revenue shortfalls for airlines. Moliterno said the timing of the extension makes sense.

“If we contract with anyone by the end of the year, they most likely won’t begin service until next spring,” said Moliterno, who said the funding can’t be used for purposes other than providing revenue guarantees for airlines.

In other action, the committee accepted the resignation of Don Johnson, a security and compliance employee who worked at the airport for 12-and-a-half years. Afrodite Altieri, office manager for the Western Reserve Port Authority, has assumed Johnson’s duties.

Moliterno also spoke about the vacant air cargo building the airport has long sought to sell. Because of FAA regulations, the building can only be used for military or aviation purposes. Additionally, the recently completed joint land-use study commissioned by Trumbull County asked the port authority not to sell the building to a private owner. Moliterno said the port authority has received substantial interest from a group with a private military use that cannot be disclosed even to the port authority itself.

Finally, Moliterno announced members of the port authority would be attending the TakeOff 2018 air service development conference in Memphis in late October. The conference will allow port authority officials to meet face-to-face with presidents of airlines to discuss bringing daily passenger service to the airport.

“We’ll be able to meet with people who make those decisions,” Moliterno said.