Posted by Ruth Lundin on Nov 24, 2019

Pictured (l to r):  Ron Almeter, President Cheri Krull, and Dan Reininga

Hiroko Walters first introduced Dan Reininga, CEO of Lake Shore Savings Bank. She originally had approach Dan to talk about Lake Shore Savings Bank, but Dan, who has been a Rotarian since '97 in Dunkirk, suggested he instead use this opportunity to be informative to all concerned. He proposed he share his  involvement in, and knowledge about, the Jamestown Airport. This is a topic where he is well versed, as Commissioner of Chautauqua County Airports. 

Hiroko then introduced Ron Almeter, Manager of Airports & Parks for Chautauqua County, a position he has held since January 2017. Mr. Almeter has over 35 years of senior leadership and facilities management experience as he worked in various private, government and military operations, most recently as Base Engineer of the United States Army. He retired in 2016. 

Ron focused his talk on the Jamestown airport. He noted that running the facility is straightforward, but managing the business perspectives is challenging. There have been significant setbacks trying to operate the Jamestown Airport as a business. 

Both airports function as a part of the National Plan for Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS).  This is highly regulated. Jamestown was one of 20 commercial airports in New York State. It lost its commercial status when it lost passenger service. However, Jamestown is still registered as a commercial airport and is following the rules in hopes of being approved for commercial service again. In contrast, Dunkirk is a General Aviation field. The County acquired both airports from the cities. 

There is a perception that the Federal government has lost interest in supporting Jamestown as a commercial airport. The Feds have questioned the viability of passenger service, even though the airport served 75,000 passengers a year in the 1980’s. 

Jamestown has received $7,455,600 in Federal support and will receive $751,500 in 2020-2021. Some have proposed discontinuing commercial service. However, if this were to happen, there are 22 “grant assurances” the must be met or the grants must be repaid. Grants over the last 20 years, totaling about $30 million dollars, would have to be repaid. 

Jamestown realized about $97,435 in income last year with over $685,000 in expense. 

There are several possibilities for reversing the downward trend of revenues. On the Commercial Aviation front, Boutique Air has submitted proposals to the US Secretary of Transportation. Several businesses, including general aviation, flight schools, aviation repair, charter services and aerial applications are doing well. There is an airport in Hamburg that is closing and the flight school will probably move to Chautauqua County. 

Essential Air Service 

It would seem like passenger service is not feasible. However, there is a currently a proposal in front of the US Secretary of Transportation. They are proposing 30 round trips to Pittsburgh and Baltimore. The County and private sector subscribers have provided a $147,000 commitment. The proposal calls for ticket revenue of $1,123,469 with a $2,863,405 Federal subsidy. That’s $200 per passenger! This seems ludicrous until it is factored in that 45% comes from fees from overflight by foreign air carriers, not from taxes. 

This service would be far superior to service in recent years. Boutique Airlines has an agreement with American Airlines, so passengers don’t have to re-check bags and also is a part of the National Commercial airline network which means that flights to Jamestown will be visible to air travelers when they plan, such as those who might wish to visit the National Comedy Center or Chautauqua.  

The proposal has been submitted since September 2019. It is thought that the DOT is waiting to see how Boutique performs on its existing turnarounds. Right now it is open for public comment in the USDOT Docket Management System. Docket ID # DOT-OST-2003-14950-0131. We are all encouraged to comment on the proposal! 

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More on the airports and the potential new carrier for Jamestown

Submitted by Greg Jones

Our speaker today was Ron Almeter the manager of the county airports appointed in 2017. I am on the airport commission and have the pleasure of working with Ron. He is a Naval Academy graduate and we are very fortunate to have him as our airports manager!

I will touch on a few aspects that he did not have time to elaborate, mainly focused on our effort to return air service to Jamestown and how your favorable comments can really help make that happen. Did you realize that in the 1980’s we had 75,000 passengers using our airport yearly? Surely they have not all disappeared and I hope that reliable service will bring many back.  A few bullet points.

Proposed commercial service and business case is premised on the following level of service:

  • 30 Nonstop round trips (RT's) (18 PIT/12 BWI for 20 weeks)
  • 24 RTs (12 RTs PIT/12 RTs BWI for 32 Weeks. Seasonally adjusted.
  • Boutique Air operates a modern fleet of Pilatus PC-12 aircraft. The Pilatus PC-12 is a product of Swiss aircraft manufacturer Pilatus Aircraft Ltd.  Recognized for its world-class engineering and safety ratings. The PC -12 carries 8 passenger, pressurized (flies above the weather), fast with a cruise speed of over 300 mph and comes with an enclosed lavatory.  
  • Boutique has a code share with United and you can book your Jamestown segment on their website, you will get frequent flyer miles and your luggage will transfer.  
  • Boutique has a interline agreement with American which allows you luggage to transfer to an American flight at either of our destination airports.
  • Ruling out weather, which can affect all air travel, Boutique’s flight completion rates are similar to the legacy carriers according to the data I could find. Boutique has to meet that performance and time will tell. However at the least it is much better then we experienced with our last carrier. 

Favorable comments are important to regaining our service and if you would like to leave a comment you can do so by either of the two options below. They can be as simple as you are a leisure traveler and would appreciate local air service or if your business or occupation requires frequent air travel let them know this would be a big plus for you. When in click on, Comment Now and write your message.

Option OneClick Here

Option Two – Go to www.regulations.gov    

 In the search box copy and paste DOT-OST-2003-14950-0131.

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