BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — Managers of West Virginia’s 23 airports are gathered in Bridgeport this week for the state’s annual aviation conference at the North Central West Virginia.
This is the 16th year the West Virginia Airport Manager’s Association has held the annual meeting but the first that the conference has been held in Bridgeport, and NCWV Airport Director Rick Rock said he was honored to be the host.
“It was held in Charleston for many years, and then it went off to the Greenbrier, Glade Springs, Snowshoe, Oglebay, and I thought that we could provide a good venue here,” Rock said. “The Bridgeport Conference Center put in a bid and was selected as a site, and we’re excited to say even with the great destinations there’s been in the past, we’re above last year’s numbers by about 50 percent.”
About 155 people are registered for the event, and Rock is hopeful that this year will be “the best one ever.”
Of the state’s 23 airports, seven are commercial service airports, such as North Central West Virginia, with the remaining as general aviation airports, including Fairmont Municipal-Frankman Field.
“So we all face the same problems,” Rock said. “Wildlife hazards, maintaining and improving the infrastructure and depending on what type of an airport you are, how big of a project that could be, funding and finding good people, trying to provide good services, dealing with the FAA, so many different things that it could be and a lot of things are similar, so we try to put on a conference that meets the needs of all the people that are coming.”
Speakers this year include Adjutant General James Hoyer and retired American naval officer and aviator Jon McBride.
While Rock said this is a great chance for all of the state’s airport managers to gather at a central location for this event, he’d be amiss to say he didn’t also see it as the perfect opportunity to show off all the great things happening at the NCWV Airport.
In fact, the airport is in the middle of what Rock says is the busiest summer in the airport’s history.
“If anybody’s been up to the airport recently and looked at the parking lot, you can tell how busy it’s been,” he said. “Last June and July, as far as people enplaned, have been the best months, and July has topped June, so it’s just unbelievable what’s going on. Historically it’s been the best month in our history.”
According to Rock, the NCWV is currently enplaning over 1,700 people on its daily service.
“To put it in perspective, in 2007 for the whole year, we had 4,800 enplanements. For July, we had 4,600 just this month,” he said. “Things have really changed a lot. We’ve really taken ownership of our airport, which was my goal. It’s exciting to see things happening that at one time were only in my wildest dreams.”
Of course the question is whether that growth can keep going, and Rock is confident that it can.
“As long as we deliver, and we have good services and people see the convenience,” he said. “As long as we still have the support of our community and people get what they expect to go, I think the sky’s the limit, I really do. It’s full of opportunities.”
To accommodate the growth, the airport is planning for a new terminal, which will be in a new building that will sit adjacent to what currently sits on the property. Rock said as it is now planned, the new structure will be double the square footage of the current terminal.
“You have challenges when you have a rapidly growing airport, which we do, and we know our challenges,” he said. “I think that we have several different contingent solutions to meet those challenges, so I think hopefully by next summer we’ll have expansion of our facilities that will meet our growing needs.”