Big Plans for Airport

NEWPORT– Plans were unveiled Monday afternoon for a variety of improvements and expansion plans for the Newport Airport in Coventry. The announcements included plans for a new manufacturing facility. Guy Rouelle, the Vermont Aviation Administrator, and Patricia Sears, the Executive Director of the Newport City Renaissance Corporation, announced that a composite airplane manufacturing facility has its sights on land at the airport. Plans are hush hush, but a detailed announcement is expected in 45 to 60 days.The number of jobs that could be created and the name of company are being withheld for now, but a draft agreement is in place and under review by the company. The company would build planes, plane parts, and test the aircraft.Work to expand the airstrip began about eight years ago. At that time, the Federal Aviation Administration said no to expanding the airstrip, but work has continued over the years to prove the need for expansion. The hope is to extend the runway 1,000 feet to accommodate larger aircraft.Rouelle is confident that he now can convince the FAA to support the expansion. A study is in progress to gather the information needed by the FAA. The FAA needs to know that 500 or more operations take place at the airport by jets not based out of the Newport Airport.In addition to the expansion, an investor is seeking to build a new terminal. The identity of the investor is being kept quiet, but will be announce in about two months. The new terminal is planned for 10,000 square feet at a cost estimated at just over $2-million. The terminal would house a restaurant and have a place for U.S. Customs, which would allow the airport to be turned into a Federal Trade Zone.A restaurant from the Northeast Kingdom has already expressed interest in the location and car service companies have expressed interest as well, including limousine and car rental businesses.A new parking lot and access road would be built along with the terminal.The projects planned for the airport would need an amendment to the current Act 250 permit.Work also continues to turn the airport into a Federal Trade Zone, which would help local businesses, explained Sears.Beginning July 1, Airport Road will be rebuilt, which will help facilitate traffic to and from the airport, and would help support the New England Waste Systems' landfill, Rouelle said. The partnership with NEWS is important, he added.The State of Vermont would have to approve any name change for the airport. Rouelle said that the right name is a marketing tool that attracts activity. What that name could be will be discussed, Sears said.If the FAA approves the project, they would pay for 95 percent of the expansion coast, leaving five percent for the state. The cost of the project is estimated at $4.5-$6 million. The earliest construction could start on the runway expansion would be in 2015. The expansion process would include wetland mitigation.Currently the water and sewer system are handled by wells and septic systems, and the hope, according to Rouelle and Sears, is to hook on to the Newport City system for water and sewer. Expanding high speed telecommunications to the area is planned in all areas around the airport.Plans were also unveiled to build a hangar or hangars to house 16 aircraft. The hangars would house the airplanes that are currently forced to sit outside in the elements.