November 27, 2014
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Where will money for airport projects come from?

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.

Richard Langseth

Warwick


Comments
1 comment on this item

RIAC needs as much cash/cash flow as possible. RI has too many airports! From a personal perspective, I can't see them closing Block Island-it's an isolated location(island). I also can't see them closing Newport's airport-high class/socialite city that likely should have an airport to accomodate smaller, private flights. As far as all other airports in RI, regardless of where located or whether profitable, RIAC should consider privatizing all of them. Based on the current airport market, I can't see Green Airport recovering the 2 million passengers it has lost during the recent economic downturn. And because other airports in our region(Logan/Manchester,NH/Bradley) are watching their costs/revenues, Green is likely to have a very difficult time competing with them once all improvements have been made. Green is the LAST airport in the New England region to make these type of final upgrades; plus the FAA doesn't have/won't provide as much federal funding to complete these runway improvements/Glycol system/replacement hangar as Green had hoped for.

Personally, if Green needs to make improvements to accommodate COMMERCIAL traffic(FEDEX, UPS, etc.)-OK.

The improvements to the terminal made during the 1990's were more than adequate for passenger traffic. Face it RIAC, Green Airport was not meant to compete with LOGAN!

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