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COUNTY: Airport needs look ahead, not to past

We still think the county’s market analysis to determine if the county should try again to restore commercial air service to the Chautauqua County Airport in Jamestown is a waste of money — as most county spending on trying to restore Essential Air Service has been.

The study isn’t likely to change minds at the federal level that the Jamestown area can sustain a federal Essential Air Service designation no matter how much interest the study indicates there is. Jamestown’s history, albeit with a shoddy service, has shown there just wasn’t enough interest. The only way Jamestown comes close to meeting the federal air subsidy program requirements is if the federal government lessens its requirements.That’s unlikely – and Jamestown hasn’t grown in the years since it lost its Essential Air Service designation. It’s shrunk.

The only way an air service may work in Jamestown, and it’s still not a guarantee, is if there are affordable non-stop flights to cities like Orlando, Boston, Vegas or Myrtle Beach. More local people would use the service if that were the case. However, this is unlikely to happen, thus here we are again.

Private businesses still use the airport. And county officials say hangar space in Chautauqua County is at a premium. Those two areas, it would seem, are the best bets to get the most bang for the county’s airport bucks. What can be done to make the airport more useful to the private businesses that are using it if commercial air service is off the table? What type of amenities are needed? Explore the market for hangar space and build a business model around that rather than the pipe dream of a bustling commercial air service business.

There’s been a lot of time and effort spent on restoring commercial air service to the Chautauqua County Airport in Jamestown. In our view the more productive path is figuring out how to make the airport the best it can be without commercial air service.

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