Yeager Officials Want Bigger Planes, More Flights

Jun. 29--Yeager Airport passengers soon could fly from Charleston on larger planes and choose from more daily outbound flights.

Airport Director Rick Atkinson and Director of Air Service Development Brian Belcher met with route planners from five airlines earlier this month at an aviation conference in Texas. The duo discussed keeping and upgrading the service from Yeager's five airlines, Atkinson told members of the airport's governing board at its monthly meeting on Wednesday.

Flights to Atlanta, Chicago, and Charlotte, N.C., are consistently full, he said.

Atkinson held a conference call with representatives from Dow, Toyota, and an airline last week. He declined to name the airline, since the upgrades are still being negotiated.

He would like the airlines to replace turbo-propeller planes with regional jets. Atkinson also would like to see the airlines add capacity by trading in some 50-seat regional jets for 70- and 90-seaters.

A 90-seat jet would bode well for the airlines, Atkinson said, because it offers first-class seating, which brings in more ticket money.

The larger planes also would benefit the state's funeral industry because the jets could ship human remains to West Virginia. The current commercial planes are too small to hold cargo that size, he said.

Now, funeral homes have to drive to airports out of the state to pick up bodies, which increases the cost for the deceased's family.

Board members also learned the Central West Virginia Convention and Visitors Bureau will no long be a subsidiary of the airport. The group was formed in July 1999 as a way to combine regional industries and the airport to help market the airport, said former chairwoman Priscilla Haden.

The CVB used hotel and motel tax money to promote the airport, which freed up parking garage revenue for Yeager to use to help defeat the proposed regional airport in Lincoln County.

The CVB changed its bylaws at a meeting earlier Wednesday to change the membership requirements of its board of directors. Members of the group now include Atkinson, Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper, President of the county's Parks and Recreation Commission Board of Commissioners Harold Carter, Charleston Mayor Danny Jones and West Virginia State University President Hazo Carter.

Yeager board members also voted to approve upgrading its emergency notification system. The upgrade will enable police, maintenance and operations to hear the notification from the air traffic control tower to the fire department.

A Kanawha County Commission Public Safety Grant is funding the $10,880 project.

To contact staff writer Jennifer Ginsberg, use e-mail or call 348-5195.