2019 was a year for the ages at Yeager Airport. We had almost 500,000 passengers come through CRW. That was a five percent increase from 2018 and an 11 percent increase from 2017. We went into 2020 with a full head of steam, ready to tackle some major projects around the airport. Then everything changed in March of 2020.
Support Services staff cleaning check-in kiosks in March of 2020.
Businesses shut down, finding a can of Lysol wipes meant you won the lottery, and the traveling came to a halt. What started as a two-week quarantine went on for months. The airport felt like a ghost town, and it seemed like there was no end in sight.
On The Road To Recovery
Fast forward to today, and we are on the road to recovery. Masks are commonplace, social distancing is the new norm, and the vaccines are continuing to roll out across the country. The travel industry is making a comeback.
West Virginians do not give up, and neither does Yeager Airport. Even with passenger numbers down near single digits in 2020, we moved forward with many different construction and improvement projects. Working with our forward thinking board of members, we decided the airport would not need to play catch-up when passengers came back.
Yeager Airport Projects
Marshall University Bill Noe Flight School. If you have been to the airport viewing area recently, you can see just how fast this building is going up. Both the school building and hangar are on schedule to be ready for students in August 2021. Before the pandemic, there was already a pilot shortage, and with travel ramping back up over the next several years, the demand for pilots is only going to grow. I am excited that Yeager Airport, partnering with Marshall University, will be putting pilots into the air travel continue to rise.
Marshall University Bill Noe Flight School Classroom Building
Post-Security Restaurant. Our post-security gift shop and restaurant, The Junction, got a much-needed facelift in 2020. It now looks like something you would see in a hub airport. We are extremely proud of the experience we can now offer passengers while waiting for their flights.
The Junction is located in Gate B, just past the security checkpoint.
Planning for the future. With the addition of the flight school, an increase in military presence at CRW, and traveling numbers bouncing back, we are designing future projects. In the next couple of years, we plan on remodeling the restrooms in the main terminal, replacing the public address system and signage, and replace a passenger boarding bridge. We are also planning more aircraft parking aprons and hangars.
Customs Building. The ground has been broken, and footers have been poured for the United States Customs and Border Protection Facility. Once this facility is built, it will allow international general aviation passengers to stop at Yeager Airport to clear customs before proceeding to their final destination. This will be another great way to diversify revenue streams at CRW.
There are several projects in the pipeline at CRW, including bathroom renovations and upgrading the pre-security restaurant and checkpoint area.
Changing The Way We Clean
The pandemic also provided us an opportunity to look at how we clean the airport. Our goal was always to provide the cleanest facilities possible for our passengers, and I believe we did that pre-pandemic. However, we have now gone a step further. All of the air ducts at the airport have been professionally cleaned, all of the air conditioning vents have been replaced, and UV-C lights were placed in vents to help clean and filter the air.
Our cleaning staff, who have been tremendous during COVID-19, put together a schedule to ensure high touch point areas were being cleaned at least four times a day. In some cases, like the TSA Checkpoint, we had cleaning personnel dedicated to only cleaning that area.
Support Services member cleaning chairs after a flight takes off.
2020 was a rough year for everyone. April 15th, 2020, 15 people flew out of Yeager Airport. 15 passengers was a tough pill to swallow. But our confidence and dedicated team of employees never wavered. We weathered the storm, and now I believe we have come through the other side. We are not back to pre-pandemic numbers. That will take some time, but we are on the right track. West Virginians don’t quit, and neither does Yeager Airport.
The Past, Present, and Future of Aviation
In the 1800s, the interest in “flying machines” really began taking off. That century was the first time people had an understanding of what it would take for people to fly. Still, by the end of the 1800s, no one was able to build a successful airplane.
It did not take long for the hard work of aeronautical advancement in the 1800s to pay off. In December 1903, the Wright Brothers made history. Wilbur and Orville Wright made four short flights in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, marking the dawn of a new age.
Airplanes proved their worth during World War I. In 1921 the Army Air Service brought dozens of aircraft to a small grass airfield in Kanawha City, West Virginia later named Wertz Field. Although Wertz Field wasn’t an ideal location for passenger traffic it continued to operate until 1942. On November 3, 1947, Kanawha Airport now Yeager Airport was opened, and the first commercial airline flights began operating a month later on December 1, 1947.
Today air travel makes it possible to get anywhere in the world in a short amount of time. Air travel is so popular, it is estimated that commercial airlines will need eighty-seven new pilots every day to keep up with the demand for flying.
Yeager Airport and Marshall University are going to be part of the solution to the potential commercial pilot shortage. In the fall of 2021, the Marshall University Bill Noe Flight School will open its (hangar) doors. The flight school will offer a Commercial Pilot: Fixed-Wing Bachelor of Science degree and an Aviation Maintenance AAS which will house around fifty students each year. Those students will get a first-class flight school education and help meet the nation’s projected need for commercial pilots over the next two decades.
The development of aviation programs with Marshall University is a tremendous opportunity for the airport and for the whole regional economy. Yeager Airport continues to work tirelessly toward the bigger strategic vision of Yeager Airport: to help West Virginia by becoming the most important economic engine for the State through advances in aviation and education. Whether that means giving you a first-class airport, bringing more aviation jobs to West Virginia, or investing in the future of air travel. The possibilities are endless in air travel, and Yeager Airport intends to be at the forefront of those possibilities.
It has been a long year and, somehow, it has also been a fast year. We are nearly one month into the 4th quarter of 2020, and the holidays are quickly approaching. Typically, the holiday season is a busy season for airports and airlines. While holiday travel will be down this year compared to years prior, it is not all bad news. Let’s put our glass half full glasses on and look at some positives for air travel this year.
International Air Transport Association Study
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released a study at the beginning of October saying one billion have flown so far in 2020. That report says, of those one billion people, there have only been forty-four suspected COVID transmission cases related to air travel.
How did the IATA get their numbers? Good question. The three main commercial aircraft manufacturers in the United States are Airbus, Boeing, and Embraer. The IATA analyzed aircraft manufacturer’s studies that looked at the risks of in-flight virus transmission. The study goes on to say its “outreach to airlines and public health authorities combined with a thorough review of available literature has not yielded any indication that onboard transmission is in any way common or widespread.”
The IATA also recognizes there is no way to establish an “exact tally” of positive cases connected to air travel. The numbers, though, are promising. After an extensive study, only 44 positive cases could be tied directly to air travel out of one billion passengers. This number begs one question, though, why? Why is the number so low?
Speaking about the IATA study, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said of the 44 cases that could be tracked to air travel. Many of those came before airlines implemented several safety protocols like mandatory face coverings. Dr. David Powell, a medical advisor for the IATA, agreed with that sentiment.
How does all of this relate to holiday travel? Bastian said holiday season travel forecasts look “encouraging.” The CEO went on to say confidence in air travel has increased steadily throughout the year.
We have been working diligently at CRW to make sure you feel comfortable flying. Many of the protocols we implemented in the early days of the pandemic are still in place. Here is how we have prepared to make your travel experience as safe as possible:
- Support services staff have a daily checklist for high touch areas that need extra attention.
- You will find reminders to socially distance throughout the airport.
- Staff temperatures are taken every day.
- Face covering’s are mandatory inside the terminal
- Airport vendors have installed acrylic shields to minimize contact between themselves and passengers.
If you are flying this holiday season, we are here to give you the safest experience possible. If you have any questions or concerns, you can always give us a call or reach out to us on our social media pages.
Information for this blog came from the IATA study, Newsweek, and an interview with Ed Bastian on CNBC.
When you think of Yeager Airport, we hope one thing comes to mind – convenience. We are always looking for ways to make your trip as smooth as possible. We believe our newest upgrade is going to do just that.
Earlier this month, we put in a new parking system. The new system allows you to get in and out of the parking garage in a much more modern way. Let’s breakdown what’s new with this parking system, and why it will give you one less thing to worry about during your trip.
HOW IT WORKS: When you pull up to the parking gate outside the garage, the kiosk will show you how much parking costs based on how long you are there. Hit the “Print Ticket” button, and a ticket will print out with QR code.
WHAT IS A QR CODE: QR stands for Quick Response Code. Your smartphone camera is easily able to read the code printed on the ticket. One thing we would like to point out with these new tickets, do not leave them on your dashboard. The sun can make the ticket fade. If your ticket does fade, your camera might have a hard time reading the QR code.
HOW TO PAY: This is where the convenience aspect kicks in. After your ticket prints out, you can scan your QR code on your phone and save your ticket there. When you get back from your trip, there is a kiosk in the baggage claim to pay your ticket. Pull up the ticket on your phone, scan it, and pay with card or cash. You can also do the same thing at the gates when you are leaving the parking garage. Technology not your thing? No worries. Keep your ticket with you, and you can scan it at the kiosk in the baggage claim or at the gates when you’re leaving the parking garage.
WHAT IS THE PRICE:
- Up to 1 hour – Free
- Up to 2 hours- $5.00
- Up to 6 hours – $6.00
- Up to 10 hours – $7.00
- Daily Max – $10.00
- Lost Ticket – $11.00
We hope this new system makes your travel easier and stay tuned for more updates including the option of paying your ticket on your phone. Thank you for Flying C-R-W!