Independence Air's Failure Brings Opportunities to W.Va. Airport

CUMBERLAND (AP) - The failure of Independence Air is creating economic opportunities at the Greater Cumberland Regional Airport, which has storage space for grounded jets.

At least one of the defunct airline's 50-passenger Bombardier CRJ-200 jets has landed at the airport in nearby Wiley Ford, W.Va., and seven more are expected, said Bob Creighton, president of Aviation Experts International of Stephens City, Va. Creighton is part of a joint venture that aims to bring the planes to Cumberland for maintenance and storage before their eventual reuse.

With space available for as many as 25 such jets, the Cumberland airport could become a storage, maintenance and repair center for passenger planes in transition, Mr. Creighton told members of the Potomac Highlands Airport Authority, which runs the airfield.

"With the industry changing so rapidly, there are all these banks and holding companies that wind up with airplanes they don't know what to do with," Mr. Creighton said Thursday. He said the planes are often recycled through leasing and resale.

Airport manager Terry Malone said the airport will receive a parking fee for the planes. The amount per plane will depend on the number of planes the group brings in, Mr. Malone said yesterday.

Independence Air, based in Chantilly, Va., shut down Jan. 5 after nearly 19 months of operation. Parent company FLYi Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Nov. 7.

The airline had a fleet of 42 planes - 30 of the 50-seat Bombardier jets and 12 132-seat Airbus jetliners.

Seven former Independence Air jets are being stored at Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport in Martinsburg. Mr. Creighton said the Martinsburg airport has capped at 15 the number of planes he can park there, so he and partner Bob Sagars approached the Cumberland airport.

Mr. Sagars is president of Cardinal Air of Winchester, Va.

Mr. Creighton said he also wants to expand some of his other businesses to the Cumberland airport, including a repair shop and a charter air service.

Cumberland Mayor Lee Fiedler, an airport authority member, endorsed the plan. "I really think we should pursue this and get the process going," he said.

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