Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Partnership eyes Guard building at Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport (KPKB)

The former West Virginia Air National Guard facility at the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport has been vacant since 2004. Two businessmen approached the Wood County Airport Authority Tuesday about leasing the property, rehabilitating it and running a charter service and flight school there. 

WILLIAMSTOWN — Two businessmen told the Wood County Airport Authority Tuesday about their plans to lease the former West Virginia Air National Guard building that’s been vacant for more than a decade,

Airport Manager Jeff McDougle also informed the authority that while enplanement numbers remained down compared to years past, Via Air flew more passengers out than in previous months and service has improved.

Bob Coil, of American Lubricants and Chemicals LLC in Marietta, and Kurt Lerch, of HREC LLC in Marietta, who operates a flight school at the airport, asked the authority for their feedback on leasing the old National Guard facility. It would serve as a headquarters for the flight school, as well as a chartered plane service and, potentially, executive hangars for private aircraft.

“We’ve talked to a lot of local businessmen that will use the charter service,” Lerch said.

The building has deteriorated over the years, with peeling paint, rust and a few missing or broken panes of glass.

Kurt Lerch, left, discusses his and business partner Bob Coil’s proposal to lease the former West Virginia Air National Guard facility at the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport Tuesday as Wood County Airport Authority member Tim Flinn listens. 

“It’s got good bones, but everything else is kind of bad,” Coil said.

Originally, the pair had been interested in the Guard building and Hangar 4, but they said rehabbing that structure as well would prove too expensive.

“It’s a budget-buster for us to do both facilities, for sure,” Lerch said.

Lerch currently rents planes to certified flight instructors, but he’s hoping to get the school certified and possibly even accredited through a local college.

“I can’t even explain to you the number of student pilots that we are getting without any advertising,” he said.

McDougle said people who call the airport about flight lessons are referred to their program, which does not have an official name.

Authority members asked questions of Coil and Lerch, and McDougle requested they come back with a more specific plan, including numbers and a timetable for certain repairs, so that a lease could be considered. Lerch said they wanted to get a sense from the authority whether there were any strong objections before putting more time and effort into the proposal.

“As long as there’s aviation-related businesses in that facility, I’m for it,” authority President Bill Richardson said.

In other business, McDougle said there were 234 enplanements for the month of March, nearly 100 more than February but 134 less than the same period last year and the least for the month since zero were recorded when the airport was without a carrier for two months in 2007.

“I have seen a marked improvement in Via’s performance,” McDougle said. “Just 24 percent of the flights were canceled, compared to 58 percent in February.”

All the March cancellations happened at the start of the month, and McDougle said the airline now has backup planes available after required maintenance was completed and recently added two pilots.

“Bookings in the future here are looking strong,” he said. “In fact, for the five West Virginia airports (Via serves) … ours is the strongest.”

Via’s reliability — just one cancellation — over an 18-month period at the Raleigh County Memorial Airport helped convince the airport’s marketing arm, the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport Authority, to recommend the company as its new provider for federally subsidized Essential Air Service. But maintenance issues have led to numerous cancellations and low enplanement numbers to start 2017.

Original article can be found here:

WOOD COUNTY, W.Va.-(WTAP) A vacant building on the Mid-Ohio Valley Airport grounds may be about to get a big makeover.

The structure is the former National Guard building, which hasn't been used in 20 years.

While the structure recently has been condemned, Marietta businessmen Bob Coil and Kurt Lerch see potential in it.

They've been negotiating a 20-year lease for the property with the airport and the Wood County Commission.

One idea they have is using it to expand the airport's private, or general aviation.

Lerch says with Essential Air Service continuing to come under the federal budget knife, the need for private flying-and the space where those planes can be parked-will continue to increase.

"Down the road, we're going to have to raise more capital to complete the project," Lerch says. "We do have some business folks who are interested in building hangars down the road to house their airplanes. It certainly can be prosperous down the road."

Lerch and airport officials both say the biggest structural problem with the building is its roof, and simply, the lack of maintenance it's had in the last 20 years.

The two businessmen hope the building can eventually pay for itself, by sub-leasing parts of it for use by business and non-profit organizations.

There's no exact timetable for work to begin on the structure, since the lease is still up for negotiation. Lerch says it could begin by November.

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