By CRAIG FREILICH
OGDENSBURG -- With the agreement of Allegiant Air to participate to the tune of $1 million in improvements at Ogdensburg’s airport, the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority is that much closer to implementation of their $12 million airport improvement plan.
Commercial carrier Allegiant Air of Las Vegas, Nev., has committed to a loan to the airport’s effort to expand the passenger terminal and improve the parking area at Ogdensburg’s George B. Looney Field, contingent on other factors, particularly a runway extension that would allow their jets to get in and out of the airport.
That is one of many “moving parts” that OBPA Executive Director Wade Davis said has to be in place for the whole complex plan to come to fruition.
Allegiant Air’s expression of interest is a prerequisite for the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s consideration of the expansion plan – making a “business case” for the plan. The FAA can approve or refuse the project, including much of the money for it.
The OBPA Board of Directors approved the agreement with Allegiant on Monday, plus incentives for an airline that wishes to come to Ogdensburg, such as a waiver of landing fees for a year and other waivers farther out.
The airport improvement plan includes a 1,200-foot extension of the existing mile-long runway, rerouting part of State Rt. 68 to accommodate the extension, those terminal upgrades, and a waterline to the airport for fire protection.
Davis said the aim of the multi-million dollar project and the incentive program is to attract a commercial air carrier and their jetliners to the airport, and to “fulfill the Port Authority’s objective of establishing Ogdensburg as a strong regional airport addressing the growing needs of the region while developing the airport as a strong economic driver.”
Allegiant has had success flying out of Plattsburgh’s airport with flights to Florida, Las Vegas and other destinations, coupled with success in drawing many Canadians across the border to take those flights.
That is part of growing trend where more and more Americans – and Canadians – are choosing to fly into and out of regional airports rather than major airports, in part to avoid the bustle and crush of major cities and in many cases the higher cost of flights from the large airports.
Davis also pointed to a report by the Conference Board of Canada indicating that “roughly five million Canadians cross the United States border on land in order to fly from U.S. airports” each year. “These are often leisure passengers travelling as families or groups, which are able to realize savings on multiple air fares,” which can be cheaper than Canadian-based flights, the report said.
“So it’s not ‘build it and they will come,’” Davis said. “This is happening at airports all along the Northern border.”
Davis said he believes he and the authority will “try to fit 10 years of construction and permitting into two years,” the time after which they would like to see everything in place and flights in and out of Ogdensburg.
Davis admitted that was ambitious, particularly considering the formidable bureaucratic hurdles that the Federal Aviation Administration and the state Department of Transportation can put in their way.
“We excel at project management. We believe we can meet the deadlines with the help of the FAA and regional partners,” he said. “We feel we can fit the airport expansion plan into the desired time frame.”