Longer runway not beneficial, official says

Boutique Air will continue serving as the town of Massena’s Essential air Service provider for two more years. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

MASSENA — Now that Boutique Air has again been officially selected as Massena’s Essential Air Service provider, the deputy town supervisor says he doesn’t believe that extending the runway to accommodate larger planes would be beneficial to Massena International Airport.

“It seems like whenever the airport subject comes up, people talk about extending the runway and getting bigger planes. With that comes a cost,” Samuel D. Carbone Jr. told Massena Town Council members on Wednesday. “When you look at what we’re doing with Boutique Air now, four years ago we were closer to a $300,000 deficit. In 2019 we made around $50,000.

He said, if the runway was extended, they would be required to have the fire department in place at the airport for takeoffs and landings.

“It would be quite costly to have that service here. As this is a town of Massena airport and it has been partially funded by the taxpayers and is now making a profit, that would probably put us way behind by having a service like that,” Mr. Carbone said.

He said a “neighboring airport” loses about $1 million a year, according to the Federal Aviation Administration website, while Massena made $50,000.

“That is basically a state airport, so they have the state to back that,” he said.

He recalled that two years ago SkyWest was nearly awarded the Essential Air Service contract in Massena, as well as Ogdensburg. But the company later discovered that Massena International Airport’s runway did not meet Federal Aviation Administration standards for larger jets.

SkyWest officials said the process that would be necessary to comply with FAA standards would likely take an extended period of time.

“Due to these airport operating limitations, we are unable to provide air service to Massena as scheduled,” they said in a letter that was also forwarded to the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority.

Mr. Carbone said larger planes like SkyWest wouldn’t mean more money.

“We have to grow with the economy and with the residents. I don’t believe that building that out and attracting more people here would actually be the answer. I think if our area grew in population, that might be something to look at. At this time, I don’t think it’s affordable with a town-run airport,” he said. “We are going to work to get our numbers up. Adding a destination (to Baltimore) is a great addition to the service we have had. We expect an elevated service in the next two years with Boutique Air.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation of Transportation announced last week that Boutique Air had officially been awarded the Essential Air Service contract for Massena International Airport. The two-year contract runs from April 1 to March 31, 2023, at a first-year annual subsidy rate of $3,411,097 and a second-year annual subsidy rate of $3,479,318.

Boutique Air will provide 21 non-stop round trips each week from Massena International Airport to Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and/or Boston Logan International Airport using eight-passenger Pilatus PC-12 aircraft.

“We were awarded the EAS contract with Boutique Air for two more years, flying to Boston, Baltimore and Boston. We look forward to that relationship. It’s been a great relationship over the years and it’s continuing to grow even more. We have a lot of promotional items that we’re putting together. They’ve been a great partner with our branding and I believe that’s been a boon as well. It’s a great partnership,” Mr. Carbone said.

Boutique Air was one of three airlines submitting proposals to provide Essential Air Service at Massena International Airport. Also submitting bids were Cape Air and Southern Airways Express, LLC. Cape Air had served the town for eight years prior to Boutique Air winning the contract.

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