There was a time not too very long ago when North Central West Virginia Airport was struggling to fly 10,000 passengers in a year. The number was important in order to secure federal aviation funds.
CNN even did a story showing a nearly empty terminal and questioning why such an underused airport was getting federal subsidies.
Well, that was then. This is now.
Last week, we reported that the airport was on track to reach — and perhaps exceed — 30,000 passengers by the end of 2018.
“Our new services are doing very well. This place has been a madhouse, and we love to see it that way,” said Airport Director Rick Rock.
Then came word Friday that the airport has received a $1.7 million federal grant to put toward the Benedum Logistics Park, which will house commercial tenants on five acres just southeast of the runway.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said the project is expected to create as many as 340 jobs and generate some $8 million in private investments.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee with Capito, said the grant was the product of bipartisanship and a desire to help expand North Central West Virginia Airport.
Things are such a “madhouse” at the airport lately that the Benedum Airport Authority has plans to renovate and relocate the terminal to the KCI Aviation facility in order to accommodate the increased passenger load.
The success of the airport in recent years has been nothing short of phenomenal. What was once home to little puddle-jumpers has now become a major airport in West Virginia, second only to Yeager in Charleston.
The airport has seen its share of turbulence over the years, but its leadership has managed to create a robust economic engine for Harrison County in addition to providing vital air service to travelers in North Central West Virginia.
The Airport Authority has a vision, and it knows how to achieve that vision. It is exciting to think what the airport might be in the coming decade.
Much credit goes to Rock and his staff, as well as the Benedum Airport Authority — the visionary group of officials and citizens who provide guidance.
Years ago, a once-vacant field was seen as a potential airport. Those who envisioned that were sometimes laughed at, but they persevered.
We have no way of knowing what those people imagined, but we’re thankful they had the foresight to push their idea through, much as we’re thankful for the dedication and efforts of today’s director, staff and board.
And who knows what the future may bring? Nobody would have believed just how far the airport has soared into the 21st century.