MERIDEN — The Meriden-Markham Airport may once again be home to a flight school, an amenity that’s been in high demand since the last flight school closed in 2011, according to the airport’s operators.
“We absolutely need a flight school,” said city Purchasing Officer Wilma Petro, who doubles as the city’s administrator for the airport. “We get at least one or two walk-ins a week looking for a flight school.”
The city is now accepting proposals for a flight school to be housed at the airport. Proposals will be revealed at City Hall the morning of Jan. 29, according to a request-for-proposal issued by the city. Since the city took over operation of the airport in November 2011, there has been no flight school, Petro said.
Meriden-Markham Airport was previously operated by the Meriden Aviation Group, but the city opted not to renew the company’s contract in 2010 after it failed to meet benchmarks, did not pay for snow removal, and left an empty fuel tank. In 2012, the city paid $72,000 to fill the tank and has since been marketing it as a cheaper alternative to many fueling stations in the region.
According to the city’s request-for-proposal, the flight school will be housed in the airport’s terminal building through a lease agreement in which $1,800 is required as a security deposit. The school’s operators will be asked to work closely with airport staff, and it is envisioned the Aviation Commission will conduct reviews of the school.
The flight school would be required to have at least three planes based at Meriden-Markham Airport, according to the request-for-proposal. Additionally, a representative from the school would be asked to attend monthly Aviation Commission meetings when necessary.
“It’s definitely a much needed business,” Airport Manager Constance Castillo said of a flight school. “It will definitely add to what’s already a great community airport.”
There are a handful of flying clubs and organizations that operate out of the airport, Castillo added. “A flight school will really compliment what’s happening here. It will be competitive with other local flight schools.”
People call and stop into the airport on a consistent basis asking if there is flight school, she said.
Petro said an important addition to the airport in the past year is a full-time mechanic. Mustang Aviation, owned by Russ Emmons, leases space at the airport. Emmons is usually at the airport seven days a week.
“If you have a broken plan, it’s not like you can get it somewhere to get a mechanic,” Petro said. “It’s important to have someone inside the airport.”
In the last year, there has also been consideration in bringing a charter service to the airport. Petro said Maine-based Penobscot Island Air had plans to come to Meriden-Markham in September to offer plane rentals, but the proposal never came to fruition.
Petro and Castillo said the airport is a great resource for area residents, as it is well-maintained and affordable. About 50 people store their planes at the airport, Castillo said. Since 2010, several buildings at the airport were renovated or constructed, including a 1,600-square-foot snow removal equipment storage facility.
This spring, there are plans to build four new hangars, increasing storage space at the airport. In the past, several longtime tenants have left the airport and stored their plane elsewhere due to the lack of indoor storage, Petro said. In the next five years, the city plans to build more hangars.
The city has seen investment in the airport over the last few years with the help of federal funding. At last week’s City Council meeting, a Federal Aviation Administration grant was accepted that will allow the city to go forward with runway improvements. The FAA will pay nearly $34,000 for the project, the state will contribute $2,828, and the city’s share will be $943.
Earlier this year, a reserve fund was established for the airport so that any funds raised can be set aside strictly for airport-related events and improvements. In October, a fly-in event was held to show off the airport and raise funds. The event will be held annually, Castillo said.