November 29, 2014
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Kevin Dillon’s greener pastures

To the Editor:

Kevin Dillon is moving on to greener pastures. The Rhode Island Airport Corporation's (RIAC) president is leaving us for Bradley International Airport, outside of Hartford. His mission is to focus on flights to Europe and nonstop West Coast operations. Dillon's comments to the press include: “One of the things I bring to the table is lots of experience in New England.”
I attended Mr. Dillon's last RIAC board meeting. It was a subdued affair. The worst news was Mr. Dillon's revelation that passenger seat capacity at T.F. Green Airport is down 20 percent from last year. This resulted in a 10 percent drop in passenger counts for May. The situation is likely to continue for years to come.
There was some talk about holding the line of the "cost per enplanement" metric – that RIAC staff cannot allow airline costs per enplanement to increase. How can RIAC achieve that goal with a 20 percent decrease in available seats? RIAC needs to increase its charges to the airlines to make up for lost passenger fees. The only other option is to cut expenses. That’s the way budgets work – at home and at work. As a result, ticket prices will go up at Green, pushing more passengers to Bradley and Boston's Logan Airport.
Board members want to spend $30,000 to hire a search firm to find a new leader. Considering the $290,000 compensation plan in hand, I wonder why a simple ad in the airport managers' news magazine wouldn't be enough to find hundreds of candidates. RIAC has probably gotten dozens of résumés in the past week. Why don't we simply post the job on the state website?
Bradley reported 50 percent more passenger traffic than Green last year, while employing 38 fewer employees than at Green. Its cost-per-enplanement metric was $9 versus our $11. Bradley lost $3 million last year, a figure that has been of concern to the governor of Connecticut. His concern resulted in the shakeup that led to bringing Mr. Dillon into the picture. It will be interesting to see how he handles that $3 million loss.
Mr. Dillon may focus his attention on freight. The longer runway proposed at Green was essentially to increase freight operations. The original T.F. Green EIS showed 20 to 40 freight operations per day to pay for the extended runway. One thousand people showed up when these numbers were discussed at a public meeting. The freight numbers were then buried – replaced by eight nonstop passenger flights to California per day. Yeah, right. (As mentioned in many previous letters, Green’s runways are more than long enough to accommodate flights to the West Coast.)
Bradley is fundamentally different from Green. It is in the center of a major three-town industrial park through which the airport authority hands out tax incentives for manufacturing and logistics investments. The chair of the airport authority is the president of Engine Alliance LLC, a joint company of General Electric and Pratt & Whitney. Alliance manufactures the quietest and most efficient jet engine in the world. Both Pratt and GE are domiciled in Connecticut. Mr. Dillon will work for this executive.
Mr. Dillon is now in charge of managing the tax credits and other goodies passed out to prospective manufacturing, airfreight, and other logistics companies moving into Bradley. He will fill up empty industrial and logistics space that, in some cases, you can roll planes to.
Can we compete with Bradley’s Dillon in bringing new companies to our state? Mr. Dillon will be squiring executives around the airport in nearby Connecticut. They will be looking at the Bradley Airport Development Zone. This is an enterprise zone with millions of square feet of empty industrial space tied directly to the airport, and hundreds of acres of potential research and development space in the Connecticut woodlands overlooking the airport. All with tax abatements and tax credits. Our Quonset space is great, but there is little room for expansion there. That's the only place in Rhode Island that comes close to Bradley.
We need to recruit a new executive director who can hold the line on airline costs. The airlines are required to pay for the deicing pollution problems and some safety improvements at Green. Good luck to this new executive director as he or she is tasked with the Herculean mission of selling the airlines on increasing seating capacity by at least 50 percent to fund the runway extension while facing increased fees to pay for the other things.
Boston's Logan Airport has captured millions of Green's passengers since 2005, with more defections coming. Now we are faced with a renegade Kevin Dillon over in Connecticut, hell-bent on solving his inherited $3 million loss situation by capturing more passengers and freight. He has some pretty easy pickings in Eastern Connecticut and Western Rhode Island – places from which passengers traditionally have driven to Green. At the very least, we should demand that the next RIAC executive director sign a non-compete agreement to preclude another Dillon situation.
We don't want a new executive director who can learn our secrets and then move on to directly compete with us. Enough is enough. There will be no runway extension at Green anytime soon with Mr. Dillon whispering in airline executives' ears about the wonders of it all at Bradley International.

Richard Langseth
Executive Director
Greenwich Bay Watershed Group
Warwick


Comments
8 comments on this item

That is exactly the opinion we expect to hear from you. Lets concede to other airports business. It is a give up on economic and safety attitude for your own personal agenda.

If that was the attitude of our business leaders, and politicians than there certainly would be zero hope for this state.

Instead of a lets make RI more safe, and prosperous you have the throw in the towel approach. Numbers can be used in many different ways to distort public opinion. I would bet that the airports across the nation have seen lower numbers due to the recession.

As the economy rebounds TF Green can either be ready for the numbers to increase and stay competitive, or it can take your approach.

If you look at the area surround Winslow Fields you will see how many homes are gone. It would be a waste not to finish the job and go forth with the project. You will never see homes built there again.

The airport expansion is holding up progress within the city. Once ground is broken if you will than you will see real economic improvement. This is one project that can really make a difference in our city and state.

Instead of encouraging people to use other airports and spend money elsewhere as you suggest, lets bring that business to Warwick. If not, you will see the remaining tax payers of the city take on the economic burden.

Again, the main reason for the expansion is safety! Secondly, the economic benefits.

The airport does have to be mindful of the environment. But, lets be honest to the extent. With all the oil spills across the globe, and threat of global warming has that stopped the world's economies from using oil? Of course the answer is no. Airports are going to continue to operate.

Michael2012: You give me too much credit! I am not the guy behind the Internet curtain that plugs in airline ticket prices to stir people to Boston or Windsor Locks. The airlines set the prices and can and do stir people to one airport over another. It happened when Southwest started service at Green. And it happened again when RIAC went on a spending spree with seemingly no end and Southwest started pulling out. It has gotten so bad now that the airlines have cut seats available to passengers at Green by 20% from just last year.

The removal of homes near Winslow Fields is not part of the runway extension program but rather an existing 2020 No Expansion option identified in the EIS.

The main reason for the extension is not safety but some presumption of efficiency for planes that no longer operate out of Green. They were pulled out of service by Delta Airlines because they were not efficient. Modern planes manufactured for 2,000 nautical mile service (West Coast) operate quite nicely off the Reagan National 7,000-foot runways for flight to Seatle Washington. They also operate from New York's Laguardia Airport (7,000-foot runway) headed for Mexican resorts. And, they operate off of the Logan 7,000-foot runway bound for California.

Since when do our "business leaders" build runways? Politicians do not do that either. They duck for cover using EDC as a shield. And then when EDC is wrong - as it was with 38 Studios - then boom!

Again, you give me too much credit. I don't have an approach to make things better at Green. All I know is the financials are bouncing on empty according to comments made by RIAC board members at their budget hearing and there is no reserve in the budget for any problems according to the RIAC CFO. And the budget was drawn up before the drop of 20% of seats was recognized.

Your thought that things will get better at Green when the economy improves is difficult to justify using the RIAC numbers.

Bottom line -- Mr. Dillon is leaving an airport that is severly challenged. That's why they are not planning on the safety improvements for at least a year and probably two according to Mr. Dillon's testimony before the Coastal Resources Mangement Council earlier this week. The expansion will be delayed for years to come. Check out the RIAC budgets for details.

Michael2012...The expansion of the runway is NOT for safety!! It is for ECONOMIC BENEFITS!! That is why it is not covered by the FAA/AIP!!

Michael2012: Here is the quote from you: "Again, the main reason for the expansion is safety! Secondly, the economic benefits."

The problem I am having is that you are just throwing stuff up against the wall and then when I react you deny it. People really get confused when you do that and you blow your credibility.

Have you looked at the RIAC financials lately? How do you know that the RIAC board can simply flip a switch when some economic indicator goes up and then start the paving trucks for the new runway? Unfortunately for those who believe for whatever reason that a longer runway is needed and that the Providence Chamber of Commerce can make that happen -- this is a big dream and only a dream.

Flights operate from 7000' runways with weight performance restrictions especially in hot weather and when the headwinds to their destination are strong. At Logan there are other longer runways which pilots opt for when the plane is full and the distance is great. The "Mexican resorts" presumably Cancun are not as far as the West Coast and LaGuardia's runway pattern is mostly over water which offers more of the pavement to use. Washington National service is very high yield due to business and government travel so leaving freight, mail and passengers behind under certain conditions can still be profitable. We also have to think not just about the takeoff but landing, where a short runway offers little leeway in rainy, windy or slippery weather. To assert as Mr Langseth does that a 7000' runway is plenty long enough for day to day, all weather operation in a variety of aircraft is purely irresponsible.

Why wound anyone come to Rhode Island?

Why would anyone come to Rhode Island?

There has been no evidence presented by RIAC showing documented local economic improvement for other local economies after completions of other runway expansions elsewhere around the United States.

Nor has there been any estimates for our local economic improvement.

The expansion sold to the public has been" trust us", from day one.

Give RIAC your homes and businesses and "Trust us"

" Let's give it a chance " says a previous City council president and Crowne Plaza suck up #1.

I don't like the expansion only because of RIAC's approach, no pun.

Richard keep up the good work.

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