PITTSFIELD — With growth ahead of national trends, the city's municipal airport is "booming" and could operate in the black in the foreseeable future.
That would follow at least seven years of operating in the red.
An uptick in the economy is the likely cause for the change, resulting in 18 percent growth over the past year.
"It's booming," Gloria Bouillon, airport manager, said of the number of airplanes that remain at the airport for more than 60 days. She said nationally airports are seeing a 4 to 5 percent increase.
She attributed the increase to a rebounding economy and because of that, an increase in the number of jets utilizing the airport.
She said the airport could see more growth if it had additional infrastructure to support it.
The airport has a waiting list or 14 people interested in hangar spaces for them to park airplanes.
The statistics were gathered by Bouillon as she continues to identify ways the airport can be self-sufficient for the long run, which she said may be achievable within the next two years.
On the job about six weeks, among the tasks Bouillon was charged with when she was hired earlier this year was making the airport financially stable.
Formed more than a year ago, a nine-member Airport Study Commission was tasked with determining if it made financial sense for the city to continue to operate the Pittsfield Municipal Airport. It determined it should, citing a lack of commercial traffic as its reason.
"With a city management model, such items as real estate and property taxes, aeronautical-related businesses, and a solar facility can offset losses," the report reads.
The study group's findings were presented to the City Council Tuesday night.
A 38-page report from the study group outlined nine recommendations — which it forwarded to the mayor, the council and the Airport Commission — ranging from an annual review of fees by the Airport Commission to requiring the commission make an annual report to the council.
Airport Study Commission chairman Thomas Sakshaug said the growth trends have him feeling equally optimistic about the airport's financial future.
"When the solar field goes in, I think we are there," he said of self-sufficiency.
The Airport Commission is considering placing a five to eight-and-a-half megawatt solar installation on airport land.
The commission could select a solar company at a meeting later this month. And airport officials believe the panels could be up and running by 2019.
Whether the airport is operating in the red or the black is a more difficult question to answer.
As the study group reviewed the airport's finances it found if FAA funding and taxes for the Westwood Business Park are included as revenue the airport would show about a $25,000 surplus, Sakshaug said.
But Bouillon said when reviewing its budget the FAA looks at income and expenses that can be linked directly to airport operations. From that perspective, the airport will likely finish with a deficit this year, as it has each year since 2010.
During that time losses have been between $66,006 and $98,303 a year.
Projected losses for 2017 are expected to be $44,338, a decrease of $47,701 from the current year.
"I think that is quite an improvement," Sakshaug said. "You can thank the Airport Commission negotiating with Lyon Aviation for a lot of that."
Lyon Aviation agreed to several changes to the fees it pays the city including those for landing and jet fuel.
Lyon Aviation, the airport's fixed based operator since 1982, provides a variety of services to those using the airport. Those services include fee collection, on the city's behalf, for fuel, parking and landing, refueling, flight school, and maintenance.
Mayor Linda M. Tyer appointed the study group at the request of City Councilors Donna Todd Rivers, Melissa Mazzeo, Christopher J. Connell and former councilor Jonathan Lothrop in February 2016
During the council meeting Connell congratulated the group on the work it accomplished.
"There were a lot of layers of the onion to peel back," he said. "I think that one of the main goals was to see if we could really stop the bleeding."
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