Future of flying out of the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Future of flying out of the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport

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VIENNA TWP., Ohio -

The future of commercial flights at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport remains up in the air after the exit of Allegiant Airlines more than a year ago.

The man tasked with negotiating with other potential carriers says finding the right flights for the valley is an ongoing process.

“The destination is very, very important,” John Moliterno said, executive director of the Western Reserve Port Authority. “We could get flights fairly easily right now from some of the smaller airlines, but they need to be to someplace where our people are going to want to go."

Moliterno is also overseeing daily operations at the airport in Vienna Township after the exit of former airport director Dan Dickten.

“I’m going to go to the conference next week and fully expect that I’m going to come back with something that I could show to my board of directors that these companies are interested in flying out of this airport and that this is what we have to do to get them to fly out of here,” Moliterno said.

He says that’s the goal every time he goes to an airline conference. Moliterno says he'll be talking with six different airlines at that conference targeting possible flights to Chicago and cities on the East coast including Baltimore, New York and the Washington D.C. area. He did not reveal the names of the airlines he would be having discussions with to protect their privacy.

While the wait continues to see if commercial service returns, the airport is supported by Trumbull and Mahoning County tax dollars.

The Western Reserve Port Authority received $1.7 million from bed tax revenue in 2018 to put toward the airport and economic development.

The bed tax revenue is earmarked for the tourism bureau and the port authority. Moliterno says he was told by the Air Traffic Control Tower that an average of 100 flights take off and land at the airport each day.

The last full year of data kept by the Federal Aviation Administration shows a total of about 22,726 flights arrived and departed out of the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport in 2018. An average of 62 flights, which either took off and landed back at YNG or landed at another destination. In 2010 the airport recorded a total of more than 44,000 flights.

FAA Great Lakes Region Public Relations Spokesperson Tony Molinaro says the FAA’s data comes from Air Traffic Control.

Flight data for 2019 is only available for the first two months of the year. During the wintry months of January and February the FAA recorded a total of 2,156 flights.

Right now, military operations and charter flights often carry business professionals, local well-known CEO's and private passengers to where they want to go.

“Travel for business, travel for pleasure a lot of people come up here from smaller airports to train,” Rick Hale said, president and CEO of Winner Aviation.

The valley’s airport isn’t the only regional airport in the country facing turbulent times. An industry expert says the majority of flights in the country come and go from about 100 of the nation’s largest airports and mega hubs like Atlanta and Chicago O’Hare International Airport.

But the lack of competition at regional airports could lead to a trend of smaller airlines entering those markets.

“It opens the opportunity for low-cost carriers to provide an alternative for locals in the area over driving all the way to Cleveland or Pittsburgh for example to get on a major airline carrier,” Seth Young said, director of aviation studies at The Ohio State University.

Youngstown Air Reserve Station relies on the airport for air traffic control. It’s flight operations exclusively use the airport’s runways.

Not having that access would mean YARS would have to get its own air traffic control tower, something Air Base Spokesperson Bob Barko says would be a "tough sell" to the Air Force. This at a time when the region is also trying to attract a missile defense site at Camp Garfield and secure funding for a new gate to the base in the Defense Spending budget.

Local elected officials say the airport supports the future of the base and the almost 2,000 people it employs. Jobs that Trumbull County Commissioner Frank Fuda says the county can't afford to lose. Fuda says the base generates significant tax revenue for the county and is the county's largest employer.

Moliterno says he absolutely has a time frame and goal to get commercial service back at the airport. He says the local jobs also depend on the airport staying afloat.

“If this airport isn’t open, then the Youngstown Air Reserve Station can’t stay open either, that’s almost 2,000 jobs in this valley that we’ve worked very hard to try to protect,” Moliterno said.

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