April 21, 2011
By Stacy Moniot
Airport officials believe it is growing faster than any other airport in the country.
MORGANTOWN — The Morgantown Municipal Airport is growing faster than any airport in the country, according to airport officials.
The airport measures that by enplanements, or the number of people boarding planes.
Enplanements for the first quarter of 2011 are up almost 40 percent from two years ago and almost 65 percent from last year. Airport Director Glen Kelly attributes that to lower fares and a more convenient experience for business, government, and military travelers.
“We are significantly up, we believe that we are number one in the nation,” Kelly said, “we’re currently working with (U.S. Department of Transportation) to confirm that.”
Kelly said more than 3,500 passengers boarded planes in Morgantown in the first quarter of this year, and much of that is thanks to the first reduced rates for government workers available in the state.
“That has dramatically impacted the number of military fliers, NIOSH, DOE and all those other federal agencies that are in our surrounding area,” Kelly said.
He predicts there will be more. A new Army National Guard site will break ground on airport property this summer with room for a business park, and even more growth on the ground and in the air.
“What all this development means is about $100 (million), $120 million over the next five to 10 years of construction alone, before we even get into the businesses that are growing up and the additional flights and infrastructure bringing in more business,” Kelly said. “That cycle keeps building to what we need, which is a piece of infrastructure so that we can keep building for the future.”
That financial viability is even more important as the federal funding that keeps the Morgantown airport, and three others in the state open, called Essential Air Service (EAS), remains up in the air in Congress.
Once I have the runway I need of 7,000 feet to support the guard, Camp Dawson, West Virginia sports teams, we won’t need EAS.
Kelly said that doesn’t mean the Morgantown airport and the three others in West Virginia don’t need the EAS funding now, and Congress could eliminate it when they vote on the bill re-authorizing the Federal Aviation Administration.
There was no word on when that vote will happen.