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Dropped Orlando flight causes dip in boardings

CHARLESTON, W.Va.-- Passenger boardings at Charleston's Yeager Airport in 2012 were down 5.1 percent over those recorded in 2011, due mainly to AirTran's dropping its Charleston-Orlando service in June when the low-cost carrier merged with Southwest.

Last year, a total of 270,193 passengers boarded commercial aircraft at Yeager, compared with 284,842 in 2011.

"AirTran was doing well with the Orlando flight, and if we can find another carrier to resume that service, I think we'll be back in the 290,000-passenger range," said Rick Atkinson, executive director of the Charleston airport.

With Delta adding 120-passenger DC-9 service to Atlanta in March, and Spirit launching its seasonal flight schedule to Myrtle Beach two months earlier than usual, also starting in March, passenger boardings can be expected to gain on last year's total, Atkinson said.

In other Charleston airport news, Yeager's governing board on Wednesday approved a five-year capital improvement plan that calls for more than $16 million in construction between now and the end of 2017.

The plan projects that $4.9 million will be spent this year on removing a rocky section of hilltop near the NorthGate business park, which lies along the approach and departure paths to Yeager's main runway.

In 2014, the plan calls for spending $2 million on improvements to the passenger terminal building and $900,000 to replace two passenger-loading bridges. An additional $150,000 would be spent to assess the condition of runway pavement to determine when it should be replaced.

For 2015, the five-year plan calls for spending $457,000 to plan and design a runway rehabilitation project; $500,000 to buy new snow removal equipment and $1.2 million to improve airport drainage.

If the 2014 pavement study justifies it, more than $4.5 million would be spent in 2016 on runway rehabilitation. The main capital improvement project listed for 2017 is a $3 million rehabilitation of the EMAS runway safety area at the end of Yeager's main runway.

Atkinson told board members that Yeager's approach landing system would remain out of commission until the Federal Aviation Administration can install and test a new intensity control device -- a process expected to take at least one month.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelhammer@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.


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