The news that Plattsburgh International Airport will receive $6.5 million in federal funds for expansion is more than welcome — it will inspire deep sighs of relief for an airport whose future actually hangs in the balance. Questions remain, however.
The federal money will pay for a design of the expanding building, improved water and sewer service at the airport and runway rehabilitation. This is a beginning of getting the airport what it truly needs the most: more jetways and the means to get people onto and off planes.
Jetways are the conduits between the planes and the terminal so that passengers can board and luggage can be loaded. Now, the airport has only one jetway, and that causes snarls and delays that could drive frustrated customers to seek other means of travel.
There have been many times in recent years when two planes were on the tarmac at the same time, having landed from Boston or down South. One plane had to wait while the first one was unloading people and suitcases, sprucing up the interior and refueling.
As the second plane waited its turn, passengers inside were forced to sit in their seats. Sometimes, the wait could be an hour. Think of how angry you might become, looking longingly at the terminal mere feet away and unable to get there.
Passengers inside, waiting to board their flight out, were hoping and praying their plane would land first from wherever it was coming so they’d be able to leave quickly and avoid having to abide another flight processing in and out first.
Multiple jetways are essential if this airport is ever to ascend to the next improvement in air service.
But news of the $6.5 million grant is merely a tantalizing first step. Next will come the really critical question of whether the Federal Aviation Administration will provide the $40 million to $50 million to built the expansion.
Clinton County Legislature Chairman Jimmy Langley thinks so, reasoning, “They wouldn’t fund this part of it if they weren’t going to fund the rest ...” It certainly makes sense, but, in this environment of bitter politics and fiscal mutability, the name needs to be on the dotted line.
The airport’s bustle, stunningly robust during the now-ended period of DirectAir flights to the South, is noticeably less voluminous these days. Drive past the parking lot and note the number of empty spaces now compared with six months ago. It’s relatively deserted much of the time.
This doesn’t mean the grants and the work shouldn’t be secured now. On the contrary, you can’t wait for prosperity to prepare for it. The work must be done if the traffic is ever going to be restored.
So: Great news on the grants. Keep the pedal to the floor in trying to secure the rest.