If he's hired, he plans to work nonstop at airport

MANCHESTER -- The prospective new director of Manchester-Boston Regional Airport sees more nonstop flights, more destinations, more international flights and a hoped-for rail transportation link at the airport.

"The infrastructure is here," said Mark P. Brewer, 54, in an interview at the airport yesterday. He said he will take a lead role in pursuing new development.

"Where I see the biggest challenge here is ... getting the air service that the community and the region needs to get people where they want to go."

Brewer has headed the Rhode Island Airport Corp., a group of six airports including T.F. Green in Providence, for the past 31/2 years.

By 2020, Manchester is projected to have more than seven million passengers, with twice as much growth as Providence in air cargo, Brewer said.

And best of all, the Manchester airport's 9,250-foot runway sets the stage for future development, he said.

"A 9,250-foot runway allows a Boeing 767, fully loaded, to go from the East Coast to the West Coast," Brewer said. In Providence, runway expansion from its current 7,166 feet to more than 8,000 feet -- or even 9,250 feet -- is years away.

Brewer also sees an opportunity to look at some limited, additional international service, he said, to complement MBRA's service to Canada. He's actively talking to an international carrier.

"I just came back from meeting with an air carrier in Europe," he said. "They're looking for an opportunity to launch international service from the U.S. to the UK, and they're looking for airports that have the infrastructure and have a low cost ... and this is ideal for them."

$185,195 salary

Brewer's appointment comes before the board of mayor and aldermen Tuesday. Yesterday he had a full day of meetings scheduled with aldermen, the mayor and city officials.

If he is approved, he'll be hired under the city's standard department head compensation program at a salary of $185,195 (grade 36, step 12). He'll be eligible for a step increase to $190,750 after six months, with the mayor's approval.

Although voters earlier this month passed a charter change allowing the city to individually contract with the airport director, spokesman Sean Thomas said Mayor Frank Guinta plans to move cautiously on the matter.

"Right now, he's being hired just as any other department head would be in this situation," Thomas said.

Rail link

If approved to replace former airport director Kevin Dillon, Brewer will serve as MBRA's representative to the new state rail authority, which will look into a return of rail service from points south, through Nashua to Manchester.

He said a rail connection would be attractive to an international carrier looking to serve the region.

"You think about Europeans, what they are more inclined to do is jump on a train than they are inclined to jump in a car or a rental car," he said.

In Rhode Island, Brewer oversaw the financing for a $222 million intermodal transportation facility in Warwick, with a direct rail link to T.F. Green Airport.

Both Brewer and Deputy Airport Director J. Brian O'Neill yesterday outlined their hopes for expanded transportation to and from Manchester's airport.

O'Neill said two parcels of land off Brown Avenue have been identified as a potential location of a rail passenger terminal if a railroad or light-rail system is extended to Manchester. Brewer said a rail link would serve airport passengers in two ways -- providing the convenience of another way to get to the airport, and an alternative to leave Manchester if air travel were grounded by weather.

Nonstop market

In Rhode Island, Brewer met yearly with airlines, keeping his hand directly in the business with them.

"When you meet with the airlines, their mantra is, 'Don't tell us things we already know ... tell us what we don't know.' " The airlines, he said, know all about the demographics, the gates and the existing customer demand.

What they want to know, he said, is where new companies are opening headquarters, or where they are expanding. With that information, Brewer said he can help stimulate the air travel market.

"An airline like Southwest, or any of the other major airlines, if they know that there is a new market that is opening up, and people will be taking advantage of that service, they are more inclined to add that service," he said.

"You stimulate a market tremendously by adding new nonstop service, so that's going to be one of the biggest challenges is to try to get Manchester-Boston positioned away from one of the spokes of any of several hubs to create more nonstop service."

If the Manchester Mayor and Board of Aldermen approve his nomination Tuesday, Brewer said he and his wife, Molly, plan to move to New Hampshire. The nominee, who is a camera buff and has a yellow Labrador, also said he would be closer to family members in New Hampshire. He has a brother who lives in Dover and a sister in Keene.

The Brewers have two adult children, Andrew, 25, in San Jose, and Lindsey, who lives in Seattle. Brewer expects to become a grandparent in June.

His one regret about leaving Rhode Island is that he won't be able to complete an environmental impact statement on expanding the runway at T.F. Green, an expansion that will allow the airport to offer nonstop coast-to-coast service. One option for expansion requires the taking of 400 or so homes.