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W.Va. company capitalizing on airplane storage costs

May 09, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Hoping to help plane owners escape the "horrendous" costs of storing their aircraft at metropolitan airports, a local company will build a new hangar at the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport to house corporate jets and other planes.

The 14,950-square-foot hangar will be able to house eight turboprop or jet aircraft and accommodate aircraft with a tail height of up to 20 feet, said George Smith, president of Aero-Smith Inc.

Construction of the building is expected to start next week and could be completed by August, Smith said.

Aero-Smith came to local airport six years ago to start a charter and flight training business and fuel service. In the meantime, the company realized it could also find a niche in hangar space, according to Smith.

Some plane owners who keep their aircraft at major airports such as Washington Dulles International or Baltimore Washington International have to keep their planes outside because of dwindling storage space, Smith said.

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And the cost of keeping aircraft at those airports is extremely high, said Richard Wachtel, chairman of the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport Authority.

"Every airport on the East Coast would kill for more storage space," said Smith.

Wachtel said he believes plane owners would rather drive to Berkeley County's airport and then fly to their destinations to save costs.

Not only will owners have hangar space at the local airport, but the cost will be about a third of those at major airports, Smith said.

The $310,000 project, which will require five maintenance and line-service employees, is being funded by Cardinal Air Limited Liability Co., which is made up of two Martinsburg investors, according to Smith.

Smith declined to name the investors.

Smith said the project illustrates the increasing interest in the local airport, which boasts such features as a 7,000-foot runway and upgraded radar capabilities.

Several new manufacturers have moved into the airport, including two airplane companies, Sino Swearingen and TLM.

"The demand there is clear, or the investors wouldn't be there," Wachtel said.

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