To the Editor:
Kelly J. Fredericks, the new president of Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC), is calling for the sale of Block Island and Westerly Airports to their respective host towns, Block Island and Westerly. I wonder if he has talked to the FAA about abandoning these airports. Just last December RIAC reported a $3 million operating gain at Block Island in the required FAA financial disclosures and a tiny $20,000 loss at Westerly in the same reports. Would the FAA say OK to abandoning Westerly because of a $20,000 loss?
RIAC reported to the FAA a big loss at T.F. Green Airport – more than $5 million last year. RIAC needs to deal with that situation as it scratches for funding for its new projects: the glycol plant, the safety improvements to the crosswinds runway, the relocation of the ball fields, the realignment of Main Avenue, the repaving of all runways (a necessary project that RIAC buries from public view), and the extension of the main runway, complete with the purchase of up to 100 or more homes.
An upcoming loan is currently in the works for the building of a glycol plant, a $33-million-plus Clean Water loan with a probable $3 million per year in debt service. This is in addition to RIAC’s existing $27 million per year in debt service. With over two-thirds of its operating revenue going to debt service, it’s hard to believe that RIAC will be able to borrow any other money. The rating agencies have already warned RIAC about this problem. Loans are approaching $400 million against $50 million per year in revenue.
Mr. Fredericks would do well to spend more time dealing with that mind-boggling $30 million-per-year debt service problem and less time trying to save $20,000 per year by abandoning Westerly State Airport. RIAC has done some pretty strange things over the past 20 years. But attacking a $5 million loss at Green with $20,000 in operating savings by walking away from Westerly seems especially odd.