By Jared Hunt
Yeager Airport officials hope a newly remodeled general aviation terminal will give corporate executives and private travelers a more inviting welcome to the state.
Airport executives and representatives from terminal operator Executive Air officially cut the ribbon on the remodeled facility Wednesday evening.
Workers have spent the last four months renovating the nearly 2,600-square-foot terminal, which handles private flights coming in and out of the airport.
The airport authority board approved the $700,000 project earlier this year with the goal of improving the first impression many travelers get when they visit the state, Airport Director Rick Atkinson said.
“We wanted to create something that said ‘Welcome to West Virginia,’ that looked professional and modern, but also warm and inviting,” Atkinson said.
Bascon Inc., a Cincinnati-based architectural firm that specializes in aviation projects, designed the revamped facility. RC General Contractors of Charleston handled construction.
The building’s entire passenger area was remodeled.
“We gutted the whole first floor,” Atkinson said.
The customer service area was remodeled using native West Virginia hardwood and stone throughout much of the design.
The area features a new customer service counter, leather couches, flat-screen televisions and expanded and remodeled restrooms.
Workers also built a new conference room and business center encased by glass walls.
Atkinson said the new design should impress travelers coming through the terminal. He said that’s important because most travelers aren’t native West Virginians.
“There are 10 to 15 arrivals and departures each day that are not based here in Charleston,” he said.
The terminal is operated by Executive Air, which maintains a staff of about 35 employees at the site.
Executive Air chief pilot Shawn Westfall has flown in and out of Yeager since 2003, and said the project is a significant step forward for the airport.
“Now I’d say we’re more on a national level,” Westfall said.
“So far as decor and modernizations, we’re on the same level as Teterboro, N.J., which handles most of the private and commercial traffic coming out of New York City, and Washington, D.C.,” he said.
Executive Air leases the facility from Yeager Aiport. Atkinson said a portion of the lease payment goes to a fund for building improvements.
The airport authority used those funds in combination with a loan from Summit Community Bank to finance the project.
“I think it’s great the airport authority has put up the funds to keep us competing with the rest of the industry,” Westfall said.
Executive Air workers provide a host of services to travelers, including refueling, de-icing, housing planes in hangars, and even washing clients’ planes.
Westfall said a lot private aircraft coming into and out of Yeager Airport served business executives, law firm staff and doctors.
“I’d say about 70 percent of traffic is business or corporate, the rest is pleasure,” he said. “You’ve got a lot of doctors and lawyers who use their aircraft for business but also use it to travel to vacation homes.”
Westfall said the airport is also a popular stop for Canadian travelers on their way to vacations in Florida. They will often use the stop as an opportunity to clear U.S. Customs procedures and refuel planes.
Westfall said travelers will be impressed by the changes.
“It’s a major improvement,” he said.