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PGV: Airline upgrading seat totals this winter

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The entrance to Pitt-Greenville Airport welcome passengers.

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By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Following the return of jet service and the addition of a fifth flight out of Pitt-Greenville Airport, American Airlines plans to increase the size of aircraft serving the facility this winter, said the facility’s executive director.

American will upgrade from 50-seat planes to 70- or 90-seat aircraft starting in February, Betty Stansbury said at the Oct. 15 Pitt County Board of Commissioners meeting.

Also during the meeting, the commissioners unanimously approved Stansbury request to support the efforts of PGV and the state’s nine other commercial service airports to secure permanent funding from the General Assembly using a portion of a tax collected from vehicle rentals made at those facilities.

“We need that at the airport to support the financial viability of the airport. If we can do this … it will eventually reduce the financial responsibility that we at the county and at the city have in order to support the airport and keep it viable,” Commissioner Jimmy Garris said. The commissioners will make the request part of their legislative goals for the coming 2019-20 legislative cycle.

Stansbury said the General Assembly funded in 2017 and 2018 $75 million for the airports in Raleigh, Charlotte, Asheville, Concord, Fayetteville, Greensboro, Greenville, Jacksonville, New Bern and Wilmington using a portion of an 8 percent tax collected on rental car transactions that occur at those airports.

Greenville’s share of that money was $377,000 and was used for pavement repairs.

In addition to permanently funding the airports, Stansbury said there is hope the legislature will increase the amount to $125 million annually. If that occurs Greenville could receive $1.7 million annually, enough money to use as local matches to federal grants and to deferred equipment purchases, such as replacing two snow plows that are each more than 30 years old, and undertaking more deferred maintenance projects.

Stansbury said a preliminary economic impact study undertaken by N.C. State University shows the Pitt-Greenville Airport has a $270 million impact on the community, with 400 jobs directly related to the airport and 1,200 jobs indirectly related. The airport also generates $9 million in taxes, Stansbury said. The final report will be release in January.

In calendar year 2017, 104,000 airline passengers used the airport, Stansbury said. There are 70 aircraft based at the airport, with a total value of $40 million.

In the 12 months prior to May 30, the Federal Aviation Administration reported 48,000 flights in and out of Greenville, making it busier than New Bern, Jacksonville or Fayetteville, Stansbury said.

The airport is still struggling with deficits, Stansbury said.

It has operated at a loss for the last eight of 10 years, she said, with the average deficit being $128,000.

This is happening even though the airport’s hangers are full — 50 aircraft are in the hangers and another seven are waiting for hanger space, she said.

Stansbury said the airport’s board of directors hopes to end the deficit by adding more hangers and diversifying the airport’s revenue sources.

One of those new revenue sources, development of a 90-acre commercial park on land the airport owns along Belvoir Highway, remains under discussion, she said.

Future projects will involve replacing the airport fire truck, expected to cost about $700,000, extension the north corporate taxilane and site prep for a new hangar, which is expected to cost $2 million, reconstruction of the secondary runway, which will cost $6.5 million and is scheduled for 2020, and rehabilitating the general aviation ramp.

Contact Ginger Livingston at glivingston@reflector.com or 252-329-9570.

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