The Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear saw a spike in fuel sales, more passengers using its commercial passenger service and finished in the black for the first time in recent memory in 2012, what airport officials are calling a "good year" for the facility.
The airport sold a total of 320,147 gallons of AvGas and Jet A fuel in 2012, an increase of 23 percent, or 61,607 gallons, over 2011, Airport Manager Corey Hurwitch told Franklin County legislators during a presentation Thursday in Malone.
"That's a big, big increase," Hurwitch said. "Last year was kind of a good year for us."
Planes and jets sit parked near one of the runways at the Adirondack Regional Airport during a busy day at the facility in the summer of 2012.
(Photo — Barry DeFuria)
Fuel sales are the biggest source of revenue for the airport, which is run by the town of Harrietstown. Hurwitch said the airport also saw increases in landing fees, ramp fees and similar charges last year.
Asked by Legislative Chairman Billy Jones what he'd attribute the increases to, Hurwitch named a combination of factors, including Fort Drum using the facility more for helicopter training, several charter flights for hockey tournaments in Lake Placid, and a one-time political event hosted by a camp owner, whom he declined to name, that drew 15 to 20 jets to the airport in a single day.
"I don't know how much of it was meetings like that; I don't know how much of it was just the economy rebounding," Hurwitch said. "But overall it was a great sign."
Another explanation for the increased traffic, Hurwitch told the Enterprise Friday, is that the airport has stabilized its prices and fees, so customers know what to expect.
The airport's commercial passenger airline, Cape Air, also had a strong year. It bought more fuel because it added a second daily unsubsidized flight to Boston last summer on top of the three daily trips it provides throughout the year, which are funded through the federal Essential Air Service program. Cape Air had an increase in the number of passengers who flew in and out of the airport for the fourth year in a row, although its total passenger count has hovered close to 11,000 over the last three years.
Harrietstown Budget Officer Mike Kilroy told the Enterprise Friday that the airport finished the year in the black for the first time in at least a half dozen years. It collected $2,476,624 in revenue and had expenditures of $2,364,679.
By the #s
Adirondack Regional Airport fuel sales (in gallons)
Jet A: 214,289
Jet A: 258,704
Total passengers carried by Cape Air
While that's a profit on paper of $111,945, Kilroy noted that the airport would have finished in the red if it weren't for $236,000 in airport taxes raised from Harrietstown residents.
Still, "They had a good year," Kilroy said. He didn't attribute that as much to fuel sales because the price the town pays to buy fuel also went up. Kilroy said one of the biggest reasons was that the airport operated with one or two less people for much of the year, meaning expenditures on salaries and benefits were less.
Taxpayers are still kicking in money to keep the airport going, but Hurwitch said the facility provides other economic benefits that aren't included in the facility's bottom line.
"Even though the pessimists may look at it as in the red, when you count the tax dollars we bring into the state and the county, and you count some of those other benefits, I don't think it's red at all," Hurwitch told the Enterprise. "When you look at the projects we did, the people we employ, the side employment and trickle-down-effect employment and the money spent in our area because of the airport, it's definitely not in the red."
In his presentation to legislators, Hurwitch highlighted several projects, programs and initiatives at the airport last year. Using a state grant, the town continued to lay the infrastructure for several "shovel ready" hangar sites it hopes to market to plane owners. The town had planned to build a general aviation terminal in the same area, but Hurwitch said that project is no longer moving forward.
"It's still a building we would like, but we don't see where we're going to be able to get the funding to do it right now," he said.
The town purchased a $622,000 snowblower through a Federal Aviation Administration grant last year. Hurwitch said the town's share was about $16,000, all of which was covered by the sale of the airport's old snowblower for $26,000.
Another $600,000 project, primarily funded by the FAA, involved rehabilitation of the surface and drainage of the airport's apron or parking area. Hurwitch said improvements were also made to the airport's Fixed Based Operator building and one of the town's hangers, and the airport's primary runway was repainted. A new mechanic's shop opened on the airfield last year.
A Young Eagles Program was launched at the airport in 2012 by local pilot Tom McKernan. Hurwitch said McKernan volunteers to provide free flights to young people ages 8 to 17 in an effort to get them interested in aviation. Information about the Young Eagles program is available online at www.youngeagles.org.
The airport also hosted an open house in the fall in conjunction with North Country Life Flight's annual Pumpkinfest fundraiser. Hurwitch said the event brought people out to see the airport and raised money for a good cause. It will take place again this year at the airport during the first weekend of October.