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Commercial airline coming to Griffiss?

By GARY LIBERATORE

ROME, N.Y (WKTV) - Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente says getting a commercial airline back here in Oneida County would be a huge accomplishment, and it's one the county is trying to attain.

Picente says a study paid for by the county in January, was released last week and he says it shows there is demand for a commercial airline to move in to Griffiss International Airport.

You may recall the county consolidated its two airports into one back in 2007.

The old Oneida County Airport in Oriskany is now a business park, everything there airport-wise moved to the old Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome and is now known as Griffiss International Airport.

Currently there are military aircraft and private planes that take off and land at GIA, and there are a few charters that go in and out, mainly to Atlantic City, but there is no regular commercial air traffic.

Picente says this eight month study may help convince a small airline like Allegiant Air to set up shop here in Oneida County, "Now that we have this study in hand, that gives us some numbers, and gives us the ability to show these airlines that there is a need, or that there could be a considerable amount of traffic. We are going to pursue it and see where we go."

Picente says Allegiant Air which flies to places like Ft. Lauderdale and Myrtle Beach approached the county in the past and airline officials were actually here doing a site survey about six weeks ago.

On Monday, we also talked with AAA Regional General Manager Ed Welsh, here in Utica.

Welsh says it would be great for area travelers to be able to take off out of their own backyard, and he, who is also an Oneida County Legislator himself was excited to see the results of the study, but says if people are thinking they are going to have daily service, that is not going to happen, "so what's going to have to happen is you need a couple of flights a week where you can fill the plane up for a very reasonable price and to destinations that are most used here."

Both Welsh and Picente believe a small airline like Allegiant Air, may now be willing to come here, maybe just two flights a week, and only to one or two destinations, possibly Ft. Lauderdale and Myrtle Beach, places that people here have shown an interest in going to in the past and currently through both the Syracuse and Albany airports.

Picente says this feasibility study was the next next step in the airport consolidation process and now it's time to get airlines interested, and at the same time, somehow get a terminal built, something he says will have to go hand in hand, "it's chicken and the egg too. You try to get them to come, increases the boardings, which gives us enough in terms of a F.A.A. formula to garner us money to build the terminal, so it's both, it's hand in hand."

Picente says the county has also talked with Spirit Airlines in the past and he may approach them with this new study as well to see if they have any interest in coming.

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