November 24, 2014
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'Perfect storm' brought new airport director to Rhode Island
KELLY FREDERICKS

Kelly Fredericks uses the words “perfect storm” when he describes what he found in Rhode Island.

Fredericks was named President-CEO of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC) Wednesday afternoon, a position he will assume on April 8. In his present position as senior vice president of the Corradino Group in Fort Lauderdale, he is program manager for the design and construction of a multi-billion dollar airport expansion program at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

Those who run airports do not often think of “storm,” in positive terms, and “perfect storm” would seem to be the worst of the worst. In this case, however, Fredericks is thinking of the events leading to the point where Green Airport is today. A number of projects have been completed or are in place. They include the environmental impact statement for a runway extension and other runway and facility upgrades; funding for most of the projects is in place and the Interlink is up and running. In addition, Fredericks said, he was looking to return to the Northeast and to run a medium hub airport.

But it was more than having everything line up perfectly that cinched the deal. In a telephone interview Friday, Fredericks said it was the people he met, and their conviction that the airport is a critical element to the state’s economy, that convinced him he wanted the job.

“It’s the people that resonated with me,” he said. In particular, he said the RIAC staff and how they work together impressed him. He said he found the same commitment to building the airport’s future from members of the RIAC board and other officials he has met on his trips to the state.

“I want to play for that team,” he said.

As he thought about it, Fredericks said the airport has many assets and “this was much more of an opportunity than I first thought.”

Fredericks comes to Rhode Island at the end of more than a decade of contentious debate over the extension of Runway 5-23 from 7,166 to 8,700 feet, and at a time when airport traffic has been on a steady decline from the heydays of 2005, when Green serviced more than 5.7 million passengers and 6 million seemed likely in a few short years. But, as the recession set in, passenger totals went into a dive. Air traffic at Green for 2012 was 3.6 million, down from 3.8 million the year before, a decline of 5.9 percent.

Fredericks calls 5 million passengers “achievable,” adding, “6 million is doable.”

How is that possible?

“The demand is there,” Fredericks answered, but “it’s being captured by somewhere else.”

He identifies the “somewhere else” as Boston. He said bringing the traffic to Green is a matter of working with the carriers and marketing Green’s assets.

But what can be done if flights are cheaper from Boston? Why would people use Green?

Fredericks doesn’t fault people for shopping for the best ticket deals, but he does feel steps can be taken to influence carriers so they offer competitive prices and service at Green. And, he adds, there are steps that can be taken to enhance the marketability of Green. One of those assets, he said, is attitude and the partnership with the state and the community.

In a follow-up email, Fredericks was asked what he would make his priority upon arriving at Green. Here’s how he replied:

“I would have to say team building. What I mean by that is getting to know the RIAC team and working with them to build upon the already excellent relationships with the business community, airport tenants, elected officials, FAA, RIDOT and others as we place a strong focus on the following: commercial air service enhancements; successful completion of the runway expansion; cargo service enhancements; advancement of our general aviation airports and further development of and around the InterLink facility.”

Fredericks, 52, is an Accredited Airport Executive, Registered Professional Engineer (PE) and a Licensed Private Pilot. He has significant airport management experience, having previously served as the Executive Director-CEO at Erie International Airport, Tom Ridge Field from 1999 to 2008, Deputy Aviation Director (COO) at Pittsburgh International Airport 1996 to 1999, and Manager of State-Owned Airports/Improvements at Harrisburg International Airport 1980 to 1993.

Fredericks succeeds Kevin Dillon, who left Rhode Island last summer to become president and CEO of Bradley International Airport in Connecticut. It was Dillon who eventually steered RIAC through the environmental impact statement process for a longer runway. Dillon and Peter Frazier, who served as acting CEO during the search for a new director, worked out an agreement with the City Council whereby the council dropped an appeal of the environmental ruling in exchange for guarantees on the relocation of the Winslow playing fields and other promises.

In a statement released following his appointment, RIAC Board Chair Dr. Kathleen Hittner said: “The search for this position has been thorough and deliberative and provided a number of very qualified candidates; however, Kelly was the unanimous choice with years of proven industry experience. He brings a fresh perspective and hands-on leadership with runway expansion work, which we feel will be especially important to us in the next 3 to 5 years. Kelly’s skills will complement those of the staff at RIAC. He is a dedicated professional with a history of strong community involvement which can only serve to strengthen our relationships with the civic and business leaders of the state, as well as the citizenry of the host communities of Green and our general aviation airports. Lastly, on behalf of the board, I would like to take this time to express our gratitude to Peter Frazier for serving as Interim President and CEO during this search period.”

Fredericks said he met briefly with Mayor Scott Avedisian last Tuesday and looks forward to keeping communication open with the mayor and city officials. As a practice, Avedisian and Dillon met monthly. Fredericks said he plans to carry on that tradition and even meet more frequently, if that can be worked out.

As President-CEO of RIAC, Fredericks will also be responsible for overseeing the state’s five other airports. He said he is looking to expand general aviation as well as cargo flights.

Fredericks is a native of Pennsylvania and a graduate of Penn State University. He remains active in several industry organizations. He previously served as vice chairman of the Pennsylvania Governor’s Aviation Advisory Board under three different governors.

His resume lists the following as his job objective:

“Seek executive level leadership position at a transportation or development related organization or company that utilizes my leadership strengths for maintenance, operations, security, development and implementation of strategic airport and business growth to optimize the economic impact, safety and efficiency of the airport(s) and/or business to the region.”

He will be paid $255,000 and the same benefits as his predecessors.


Comments
11 comments on this item

All the best to Mr Fredricks. Hopefully the airfield improvements will move along under his stewardship.

Congrats Mr Fredricks and welcome !!!!! Now as the saying goes Get er done ! Mr Fredricks I appeal to you to make the airport expansion your number one goal . The community and state are depending on you ! Furthermore, don't forget about the little people if you will. The folks that having been waiting 15 years to move out of the way so the airport can do what it needs to do. Focus on the voluntary acquistion program should be on the top of your list for the airport expansion project. Good Luck, you will need it in this hostile environment.

Congrats Mr Fredricks, keep the pipe dream alive while the community continues to suffer urban decay. With air travel out of TFGreen is down approximately 35% since the 2007 - 2008 expansion, and the economic forcast which indicates more decline, the residents of Warwick will trully see a benefit from ripping up the city for the next couple of years. With a final agreemement that still leaves the homeowners in limbo, and with no defininitive plan to buy them out so that they can continue with their lives, Warwick will surely attract more families rapidly. With every square inch of space that the declining revenue airport consumes, the taxpayer must subsidise the loss of tax revenue to big business which continues to pollute. The biggest joke is that we will someday complete with Logan. Presently we have 3 flights a day from Jet Blue. Logan has over 100 flights daily from Jet Blue. Not to mention that if we ae lucky enough to get some traffic, we will only see the customer once due to the front end damage that their cars will sustain due to the roads surrounding the airport and also in Crappanaug.

If you want to boost business in this decaying city, you need to attract families first, not the other way around. Decaying schools, roads, property, is not attractive to families. So the administration wants to concentrate on pleasing travelers from other areas of New England while we forget about the families that live here and have to deal with the unintended consequences, ie pollution, increasd taxes etc... Lets give the city away to the unions for a paving job. Makes sense. By the way, we have no other commitment from any other airlines. The project is based on speculation.

Good luck Freddy

Fenceman I disagree with your negative comment on this subject. So the only people that fly live in Warwick ? The idea that more airlines will come in and more flights will fly once that airport expands is the whole idea. Really not much real estate is being changed. Have you driven through the area of Winslow Park? Already it is just vast land. It looks like a park ! So to complete the project they have to go a few streets further south but not up to West Shore Rd. The airport has nothing to do with the overall problems of the city and state, instead the airport will help things get better. The roads are bad everywhere and even in other states because of the weather. It is a tough time of the year due to all the storms. Obviously there needs to be a lot of spring cleaning this year.

Michael2012: Have you looked at the passenger counts for January? Down again. The big problem is that Jet Blue took passengers from the other carriers. Jet Blue is eating Southwest, Delta, and USAir for lunch while the total passenger counts still drop. RIAC management argued that the reason for the dropping passenger counts is lower capacity - that is a smaller fleet. Not the case in January. So how is this new executive director going to fund a major expansion requiring tens of millions of borrowing while Jet Blue eats Southwest for lunch? This is a very real problem. RIAC is now trying to refinance some old debt - rather than float new bonds. Will that free up debt service so that the rating agencies will look more favorably on RIAC debt? I doubt it because this kind of move might push new debt out to the final years of the Intermodal bonds where the annual debt service goes orbital. If that happens then there would be no hope for new borrowings. I think what we are seeing is the end of the era where RIAC borrows its way into FAA grant matching just as RIDOT has done with road borrowings. Road project borrowings have disappeared. There was no road bond vote this past November. So what will RIAC do if it finds itself in the same position as the RIDOT?

Maybe our General Treasurer has a solution... Because RIAC is just about at the end of its borrowing lifeline with JetBlue canibalizing Southwest just as Mr. Dillon heads for the hills. I wonder if the new executive director really understands what it takes to run an airport bleeding in debt with passengers walking away in droves?

Mr. Langseth, you may want to review your numbers again. Why you state a smaller fleet was not the case in January is a mystery to me. January's available seat counts were down approximately 15% versus January 2012. I'd venture to say that's a smaller fleet. In the face of this, total passenger traffic decreased only 2%. While negative numbers are always disheartening, I'd say such a small passenger decrease should be viewed as a positive given such large cutbacks.

I'm also inquisitive as to why you state JetBlue is eating Southwest, Delta, and US Airways for lunch. US Airways' January '13 capacity was down approximately 14% from January '12, yet their total traffic decreased less than 2.5%. JetBlue has very limited market impact on US Airways' routes from T.F. Green, and the impact JetBlue does have comes from their price competition in Boston on US Airways' route from Boston to Charlotte, which results in similar ticket pricing on US Airways' Providence to Charlotte route, thereby aiding US Airways's passenger counts at Green. Delta's January's capacity was down approximately 39% year over year. Traffic was down 15.5%. Half of that was due to the elimination of 3x daily service to Washington's Reagan airport that was around in Jan 2012 but not in Jan 2013. JetBlue has very limited market impact on T.F. Green's service to Reagan. The majority of the other half of Delta's capacity cut came from seasonal cuts on their Atlanta service. The cuts were more pronounced this year than last, with two mainline flights switching over to regional jets. Indeed, a smaller fleet. Only one flight switched over last January. The vast majority of Delta's passengers heading from Green to Atlanta are connecting to other destinations. Delta has undoubtedly lost some passengers connecting to Orlando and Fort Lauderdale due to the increased competition and capacity offerings between Southwest and JetBlue, but with Southwest's nonstop options already available to those destinations before JetBlue even arrived, Delta's losses on those routes are minimal. Southwest's January capacity was down approximately 9%. Passenger traffic dropped about 13.4%. However, their capacity cuts came from neither Orlando or Fort Lauderdale. Their cuts came from the termination of Green's nonstop service to Las Vegas and the cutting of a frequency to Chicago from 3x daily to 2x daily. JetBlue does not influence either of those routes. Southwest actually increased capacity to Fort Lauderdale year over year. It is basic to understand that some of Southwest's Orlando and Fort Lauderdale passengers will be siphoned off by JetBlue, but it's hardly a large problem.

JetBlue is not eating Southwest, Delta, and US Airways for lunch. The airline is not canibalizing Southwest, as you termed it. If you look ahead, Southwest's April capacity to Orlando is the highest it's been since 2009. Also in April, Southwest will offer their first ever one-stop direct service from Green to San Jaun, Puerto Rico, routing through Orlando. This is a direct result of JetBlue's new competition. Southwest has brought back its seasonal service to Fort Myers and has started Green's first ever service to West Palm Beach. The capacity cuts the airport saw in January came from more seasonal equipment and frequency changes as airlines strive to achieve higher load factors in the face of increasing costs. They did not come from JetBlue devouring other airlines' traffic. These capacity cuts continue to happen at medium sized airports across the country. Keep in mind that January is the slowest travel month of the year and many of the cuts I mentioned above have already returned to previous equipment and service levels. Delta is back to all mainline flights to Atlanta. Southwest is back to three daily flights to Chicago. January's smaller fleet has returned to levels close to on-par with levels seen last year. It is very possible the airport will begin to see strings of positive monthly passenger flows within the near future.

Correction: January's available capacity was down approximately 9-10%.

I agree Mr McKenna with you. Mr. Langseth is way off course on this one. Not to mention the blizzard causing a couple lost days. Jet Blue's only effect is to give people more options. Jet Blue does not dominate the market. Based on the new director at TF Green and his experience and back ground we have a very bright future ahead of us in regards to the airport expansion and increased business.

Bottom line folks is that no matter how you shake out the numbers of flights vs the carriers, there are far far less people flying out of Green. Nationally as well, air travel numbers are down. It is a product of the economy.

"clueless" from Warwick...

The historical total number of passengers shown on http://www.pvdairport.com/main.aspx?guid=3E497897-BB63-4982-8CAE-6B1F686C4836 are as follows:

I am not a mathematician but looking at the passenger count since T F Green started keeping records for the total number of passengers.

Total number of passengers for January 2005 shows 380,622.

As for the latest total number of passengers for January 2013 this shows as 251,791.

A difference of 128,831 total passenger down from January 2005.

What am I missing?

why are the passenger numbers so criticial at this point in time ? As the economy improves those numbers will improve. The idea is to capture the people that are traveling to Boston. Why would any one want to drive to Boston when you have a local airport ? Unless you drive a hybrid vehicle I don't see the savings in the cost of fuel to travel to Boston, the extra time wasted, and having to deal with a busy Boston. Where as TF Green is so local you could be dropped off by a friend or relative which saves in parking fees. You don't have to use a half a tank of gas driving to Boston (most non hybrid vehicles), and you don't have the added 2 hour commute time (hour up and an hour back if your lucky on traffic). Why wouldn't you want to fly out of TF Green? Now the airport expansion would allow airlines to offer more direct flights, more flights to areas not currently offered.

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