Airport Director Deserves A Chance

Sam Arcadipane sees a day when the Chautauqua County Airport in Jamestown will not only break even, but make money.

An enterprise account making a profit – what a novel idea.

From 2006 to 2010, the Jamestown airport lost $3,637,312. It lost a little more than $900,000 in 2011. In a recent interview, Arcadipane said the airport is operating within its budget. While that is great news, being within budget is a long way from being a revenue generator.

Arcadipane says one of the biggest obstacles for the airport is its small runway. The 5,300-foot runway can’t accommodate larger planes that would allow the county airport to expand its offering of destinations and lower ticket prices. He estimates the airport needs at least a 6,000-foot runway to begin bringing in the larger planes and proposes expanding the runway 500 feet on each end.

Arcadipane will have to make a very strong case to the County Legislature for such an expansion project.

Right now, we don’t know what types of carriers could be coming to the airport, where those flights may be going or how much lower ticket prices will be. Those unanswered questions mean we don’t really know how spending the money on a runway expansion will affect the airport’s bottom line. Arcadipane’s task is made even more difficult since the county has spent more money on alleged money-making enterprises in the past only to be disappointed by a gas well at the Chautauqua County Home and lower than anticipated revenues from its methane to energy project at the Chautauqua County Landfill.

Don’t forget, too, discussions in 2010 over airport grants. It took several meetings and pointed discussion to get legislators to agree to accept federal grants then – and many of those same legislators will have a say in any of Arcadipane’s plans.

It will be interesting in the future to see how legislators handle airport spending, especially in light of ongoing discussions involving the Chautauqua County Home. Some legislators already seem content to let millions of taxpayer dollars go down the drain with the county home, a facility that runs at 98 percent occupancy and still loses nearly $9,000 a day. But, the home’s drain on the county’s finances is likely to limit local share money for airport improvements unless Arcadipane can demonstrate the project will dramatically increase the airport’s earning power. We doubt some legislators would be able to see the benefit of 700 feet of runway that would give the airport a chance to make money, not when the county is putting extra money into IGT funding for the home.

Arcadipane’s passion for the airport is evident when one looks at the work he has done already, especially given the airport’s shoestring budget.

He deserves a chance to argue for the airport’s future.