Despite Pandemic, Issues Elsewhere, 2021 Might Be Top Year Ever for NCWV Airport Operations, Business

By Jeff Toquinto on December 16, 2021 via Connect-Bridgeport.com

After multiple years of bad news and multiple years of slow recovery following the 9/11 attacks, the recent past at the North Central West Virginia Airport has been a slew of positive happenings – even during the ongoing pandemic.
 
On Wednesday, North Central West Virginia Airport Director Rick Rock presented a year-end review of the facility to the Benedum Airport Authority, the airport’s governing body. As one might imagine, Rock had plenty of positives to report on.
 
“I would have to say, since I’ve been involved, this is probably the biggest year in terms of announcements we’ve ever had,” said Rock. “What we’ve accomplished this year, in terms of major news is the most I can ever recollect in a calendar year.”
 
That is good news for Bridgeport and the entire region as Rock has been involved with the airport since June of 1999. At that time, he was appointed treasurer to the Authority before beginning his capacity as director in July of 2009.
 
The biggest news of the year? It is likely the start of the earth-moving project that will eventually lead to a new terminal building and dozens of acres of flat land for a business park and other amenities.
 
“When you look at everything involved with that project, and the phases that started with the earth-moving currently taking place, you’re looking at something that will be between $60 million and $70 million.”
 
The terminal project has been in the works for decades. However, it picked up massive steam in the past couple of years where it went from talk to action. Now, it’s a year or two away from reality.
 
“Our goal in the beginning was how to maximize space and find the highest and best use for what we have with the property we’re in control of and knowing it’s important to get things in the right place,” said Rock. “You know big things are coming and you don’t want a misstep. You only have one chance because space isn’t overly abundant.
 
“I guess a detractor would say this took a little too long,” Rock said. “The process, though, could not be rushed and I think it is going to be worth the wait.”
 
The airport also announced not one, but two new destination flights this year. At the start of 2021, Destin was announced as a summer flight. In recent weeks, the airport learned it was getting year-round twice weekly flights to St. Petersburg.
 
On the passenger front, the airport has a chance to double last year’s number of 18,583 or come close to it. That number, which came in the midst of the COVID pandemic and saw flights completely scrapped and some empty, has increased to 33,583 with a month to go.
 
That would put it only a few thousand passengers less than 2019’s record total of 42,829. And it is close despite COVID still being an issue.
 
Along with the passengers, the airport also saw activity at its new logistics park and more leads for future buildings there as well. And work is clearly visible on a $20 million project with MHI (Mitsubishi Heavy Industries) RJ for new hangars. One of the two 50,000 square foot structures currently has steel being erected.
 
Authority President David Hinkle thanked everyone for their involvement, in particular the special projects committee of the airport.
 
Tracy Miller, executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Aerospace Complex (MAAC) and Dr. Brad Gilbert, director of Pierpont’s National Aerospace Education Center, both gave year-end comments as well.
 
The meeting started with State Treasurer Riley Moore, who has a background in the aerospace industry, asking for permission to talk to those he has ties within the field. In particular, Moore wants to talk with Bell Helicopter about the possibility of locating a site – which he said would be one of many – in relation to the U.S. Army’s “Future Vertical Lift” project that Bell as well as Lockheed Martin could be involved with. Moore worked in the past, he said, with both companies.
 
Editor's Note: Top photo shows workers helping put the steel structure for the first of two hangars at MHI RJ at the airport, while Director Rick Rock is shown in the second photo. Airport Authority and Harrison County Commissioner David Hinkle is shown in the third photo, while Dr. Brad Gilbert of Pierpont’s National Aerospace Education Center, is shown below.


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