Port Authority Director Touts Prospects for $500K Aviation Grant

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Western Reserve Port Authority officials say they are hopeful about landing a federal grant to help attract daily scheduled service to Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, but a deal with a specific carrier is not imminent.

The port authority, which operates the Vienna Township airport, has applied for a $500,000 Small Community Air Service Development Program – or SCASDP – grant. The funds would support a $1.4 million initiative to restore service between the airport and “a network hub airport providing interline connectivity” via carriers American Airlines, Delta Airlines and/or United Airlines year-round using a multi-engine aircraft with 30 or fewer seats.  

The port authority last received a SCASDP grant in 2012, Anthony Trevena, WRPA’s executive director, said Tuesday. The last daily scheduled service from the regional airport ended when Allegiant Air ceased service there in 2018.

Trevena and Marty Loney, chairman of WRPA’s board of directors, sought to manage expectations regarding the restoration of scheduled passenger service at the airport when contacted Tuesday.  

“We don’t have a commitment from an airline right now,” said Trevena, who attended airline pitch conferences in Minnesota last week and in Chicago earlier this year. There are no guarantees the funds will be awarded. But the port authority will “continue to do everything we can” to apply for resources to help restore commercial service to the airport. 

WRPA officials have been in talks with various carriers, but there is “nothing concrete just yet,” Loney affirmed.

“What this stuff is about is to try and have the finances and all your ducks in a row to attract airlines,” he said.

“With a population of 637,964 residents, the Youngstown-Warren OH combined statistical area is the largest CSA in the United States without passenger air service,” according to the grant summary in the application. The airport’s catchment region generates more than 578,000 passenger enplanements, or 1,584 passengers per day traveling to and from the market, with 100% of those passengers diverting to airports outside the catchment area.

Although the application emphasizes the desirability of establishing connecting service to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, it does not exclude airports such as Dulles International Airport in Virginia or Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey serving other desired destinations.

“We know that Chicago is an area that people do come and go from,” Trevena said.   

“We’re absolutely keeping all of our options open,” he added. “There are about three or four destinations we believe we could be successful right out of the gate with, with the proper agreement.”

Despite favorable local conditions, including the low cost of living, economic activity driven by electric vehicle projects and statistics showing recovery of air travel – which declined because of the pandemic – in the airport’s catchment area last year outpaced the U.S. average, restoring local service faces several challenges, Trevena, said.

Among those obstacles are lack of pilots attributed to retirements and the increase in the number of hours required to obtain a commercial pilot’s license, he said. Several airlines the port authority is talking to also are changing over airframes, requiring their pilots to be retrained on the new aircraft.

Carriers also acknowledge the local market is in a stronger position than when Allegiant left.   

“Some of the airlines flat-out said if they had more pilots, they would be expanding more routes more rapidly,” Trevena said. 

Supporters of the grant include JobsOhio, which has pledged $250,000 toward the effort; Mahoning and Trumbull counties, the convention bureaus of the two counties as well as Mercer County, Pa.; Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber; YNG Air Partners; Jets FBO, the airport’s fixed-base operator; and Youngtown-Warren Development Partners.

“Air service is a priority with JobsOhio” for the airport, Trevena said. He also lauded the support for the airport from federal and legislative delegations. 

In-kind contributions from the airport would total $412,000, according to the application. Announcements about the grant program normally are made in August, Trevena said.

Port Authority Seeks $500K Federal Grant, Pledges Match for YNG Passenger Service

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