Houlton Renews Airport Contract in Maine

After proclaiming that they were "very lucky" to have him, town councilors agreed unanimously Monday evening to renew the municipality's contract with Terry Beals, the fixed base operator at Houlton International Airport.

Beals, a longtime pilot, has served as the operator for nearly two years. He has operated his aircraft maintenance facility, Beals' Aircraft Service, at the airport for more than 30 years.

Town Manager Doug Hazlett said during the meeting that Beals has done a "superb job" as operator and expressed excitement that he had stepped forward to continue in the position.

Councilor Phil Bernaiche agreed.

"We are very lucky to have Mr. Beals," he said on Monday evening.

While the airport ultimately is governed by the town manager, Beals oversees daily activities at the site. The fixed base operator is not paid by the town, but derives income by leasing space and selling fuel at the facility.

The reappointment of Beals is the latest step the town had taken to improve the airport and make it more economically viable.

The former World War II air base includes a 5,000-foot runway, a 20,000-square-foot hangar and a terminal.

Passenger air service to the facility ceased in the 1970s, and HIA was pummeled by serious economic blows in the ensuing decades.

In 2000, the airport lost its weather station to automation, eliminating six full-time jobs. Shortly thereafter, the number of smaller general aviation aircraft based at the airport began plummeting, and Air Cargo Carriers, a subcontracted cargo service that had been flying U.S. mail into Aroostook County, left in 2001.

These days, however, the airport is in the midst of a comeback, and town officials have poured money and energy into making even greater strides at HIA in the past year.

At this point, the airport is a significant resource for the U.S. Border Patrol, which uses the facility to conduct surveillance flights over the U.S.-Canada border. Numerous private pilots also have aircraft stationed at the site. The airport's hangar houses about 24 planes.

In concert with that, numerous aircraft refuel at the airport every week.

Last November, the council voted to allocate $104,000 to install a new standing seam metal roof on the HIA hangar. The $6 million hangar's 30-year-old roof had been leaking for some time.

The town also has resurrected the once dormant airport advisory board and begun reconstructing the airport's apron.

Contacted Wednesday, Beals said that as the owner of an aviation business at HIA, he and his staff have a "vested interest" in keeping the airport competitive and thriving.

He vowed to continue to work hard to improve HIA and offer quality maintenance service, competitive fuel prices and fast turnaround on fueling and customs services.

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