Massena seeks grant for airport

Proposed changes at the Massena International Airport, if grant funding is secured, include covered lots and replacement of the terminal building roof. Project design screenshot

MASSENA — The town of Massena is applying for a grant that could dramatically change the look at the Massena International Airport.

During Wednesday’s Massena Town Council meeting, Deputy Town Supervisor Samuel D. Carbone Jr. shared a draft presentation that showed potential impacts of the Upstate Airport Improvement Grant.

“It’s similar to like a downtown DRI (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) grant,” he said. “It’s a grant to improve airports.”

Among the proposals is a covered area to get to the parking lot, and a covered area for handicapped parking across from the terminal building. The airport also offers long-term parking, which would be under a covered area.

In addition, Mr. Carbone said, a new pilot’s planning facility would be constructed — “more or less an area where transients come in or if they need to have a meeting, they can meet there.”

He said that’s not currently available at the airport.

“That would be a great addition to our airport; it would be a great attraction,” he said. “We have been getting a lot of people here to come up for the weekend or for visits in certain areas, so if the pilots are happy, the pilots are going to fly here. The pilots fly here, they can fill their planes up.”

Other proposals include replacement of the terminal building roof; enhancement of the terminal building lobby and passenger waiting areas; construction of a new self-serve AvGas facility to consolidate airport fueling operations near the terminal building; replacement of the airport diesel fuel tank to better service airport maintenance and support operations; and construction of a photovoltaic farm to reduce terminal area power consumption.

The airport offers several services, Mr. Carbone said. Among them is Essential Air Service through Boutique Air, which he said provides affordable commercial passenger service for customers who are located more distantly from hub airports.

The airport also offers freight and parcel delivery support. During inclement weather, United Parcel Service aircraft operated by Wiggins Airways divert from their typical destinations to the Massena International Airport.

LifeNet also frequently uses the airport if it is unable to operate at Potsdam Airport. As a staffed facility, the Massena International Airport, code MSS, is able to assist with aircraft fueling, as well as having longer runways and superior navigational aids.

Mr. Carbone said state police also use existing facilities at the airport to train canine units in narcotics detection, and it has been used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a base of operations for its rabies prevention program, in which bait containing rabies inoculant was distributed throughout the forests of the St. Lawrence Valley.

“Over the past 20 years, the town of Massena, Federal Aviation Administration and the New York State Department of Transportation have made significant investments in MSS, all of which have contributed to MSS’s growth and current position to become a more valued asset to the St. Lawrence County region and beyond,” the presentation noted.

Mr. Carbone also reviewed the airport’s year-by-year income or loss from 2011, when it finished $261,291 in the red, to 2019, when it finished $49,668 in the black.

“By 2019, we made some adjustments,” he said. “The employees at the airport and Frank (Diagostino, airport manager) all did a great job providing fuel, selling fuel, and we have the landing fees. Our flights have been up all this year as well.”

Former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced in May that $250 million would be available to modernize airports to support regional economic development. Of that total grant amount, $230 million will be offered via the new Upstate Airport Economic and Revitalization Competition for projects supporting upgrades at commercial passenger service airports.

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