"A government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have"
Thomas Jefferson

Friday, March 14, 2008

Watertown to Albany

The decision by the US DOT to contract with Cape Air for air service out of the Watertown Airport is a step backward and a bad decision for residents of Jefferson County both in terms of service and local tax dollars required to operate the airport. The size of Cape Air's plane, 9 seater, and the destination choice of Albany will certainly hinder Jefferson County's goal of reaching of 10,000 enplanements.

Jefferson County reaching 10,000 enplanements was an admirable goal that would have resulted in additional federal funding for the airport and less local dollars, sadly, this most likely will not occur. Riders, if they choose Watertown, will be saddled with Albany as a destination and possibly have to travel through Ogdensburg and Massena before reaching the final destination.

Fort Drum is working on commercial air service for Wheeler Sack Air Field. The General is proposing building a new road direct to the terminal for better commercial passenger access. It has been reported that they are in talks with 3 major carriers for possible destinations such as Atlanta. The goal is to prove to carriers that the need for large aircraft commercial service exist in Jefferson County and Fort Drum. The base will host commercial service until Jefferson County extends their runway to handle a larger aircraft.

The sooner the better General!


Anonymous said...

Well said PIV. I'm very interested in the commercial out of Drum concept. My thought is however, that even if it is wildly successful that Watertown Intergalactic Airport will never be expanded. Perhaps the road from Philadelphia (NY) across Fort Drum (County rt 29?)that was closed a few years ago could be used to serve a commercial passenger terminal on Drum.

Anonymous said...

This is someones pipe dream, it will never happen. Look around at other places that have had "Joint use" airfields and air bases. they have reverted to strictly military or civilian use. This was a proposal waaaaay back when Wheeler Sack was expanded and was rejected out of hand by the Army. If we want a viable commercial airport for Jefferson Co. and the North Country we have to do it ourselves.

Anonymous said...

The link with US Airways to Pittsburgh was a good service (I could get to Los Angeles with one stop), however it was neccessary to seek alternate service as Pittsburgh was being dissolved as a hub.

As much as Watertown's growth is exciting to many, the reality is that the cost concerns with fuel with the airlines are dramatically cutting back on smaller regional airports. The Watertowns, Elmiras, Binghamtons, Tompkins county airports may be a thing of the past in a few years. Government subsidies (like Amtrak) will eventually be scaled back as well.

Anonymous said...

As wanting as the north country is for air service, I think they've taken a large step backward choosing Cape Air. The planes are small, the route inconvenient. I don't think this will last very long only for the simple reason it's an underpowered solution.

nedgar1969 said...

I do agree with the cost of fuel raising that smaller airports are proabley going to be far and in between. If you marketed the area more and fly into a city where passengers have more options. Obviously you can't please everyone but if they have choices once they get there. I think Watertown is definately a very marketable area exspecially with Fort Drum. Plus they need something more than a 6-9 passenger Cessna is not the answer. You wont get people flying on that small of an aircraft.

Bubba129 said...

I still beleive some of Watertown's problems with air service relate to being tied in with Ogdensburg and Massena... and finding a reliable airline to provide service.

Many times last year the planes would get to Watertown on time and then the schedule would fall apart in Ogdensburg and Massena. The plane would return several hours later due to weather, mechanical or personnel issues. Problems with Big Sky developed for several reasons. Using Boston as a hub with constant air traffic delays, Big Sky's over-reaching into new markets without the equipment or pilots to do so, and disgruntled pilots that lost their enthusiasm by being over-used.

If Cape Air's plan is to fly seperate direct flights to each city from Albany, it may be do-able. Last year, the flight from Albany that terminated in Watertown often had 10 or more military people on board. I don't know if a 9-seat aircraft will be large enough.

Another problem I can see is Cape Air saying they may not be able to start service until September. This would force them to miss the busy summer season in the region. They would be starting service after the bulk of the possible summer service has past, then they will be facing bad weather delays and cancellations as they head into the winter months. Hopefully, they will be able to start service earlier and pick up some of the summer business.

Watertown as a viable airport is very possible. They were well on their way to the goal of 10,000 passengers a year when Big Sky over-reached and destroyed their own business. The bulk of Big Sky's problems were totally caused by their own greed, picking up over 15% of the nation's EAS service with only ten planes at their disposal. Their constant expansion was their downfall.

Gulfstream's plan to continue to use the 1900's may have worked. But in reading the government's reasons for awarding the EAS contract to Cape Air, it was questionable whether Gulfstream could provide the proper service. They were awarded EAS contracts in Pennsylvania last year and have not begun to provide service to those airports yet.

Hopefully Cape Air can provide reliable air service to Watertown. People will use Watertown airport if they know they can make their connections and reach their destinations.

Pinkie said...

Very well said, Bubba. Another thing to consider is the weight and balance issue. 9 passengers may want to check baggage. If the plane has 9 passengers and too heavy because of baggage, they will either be leaving passengers behind or baggage behind.

I really think Watertown currently has a need for at least a 19 seat plane. Hasn't it been said all along that ridership increased after Big Sky took over? Why go backwards to a 9 seat plane?

Bubba129 said...

Pinkie is correct in thinking weight and balance issues will always be a problem.

When Boston-Maine Airlines came to check out Watertown, the pilot let me check out their plane. They told me their plane had 19 seats, but they rarely could take more than 14 because of weight and balance issues...and that was before you started adding the weight of bags.

Big Sky had issues with weight when bad weather was around. The pilots would want more fuel added in case they needed to fly to an alternate airport due to weather. Every extra hundred pounds of fuel means they have to take three to four less bags.

Another thing with many of the passengers being in the military. Many passengers were reporting for duty at Fort Drum, or "moving into the area." They not only had normal travel luggage, but their equipment and duffle bags, and military personnel traveling on orders are allowed slightly heavier bags when they travel. Many times these bags would be left behind in Boston or Albany, and would be delayed in getting to Watertown.

The 19-seat planes had a problem. The smaller planes will present a bigger problem.

Pinkie said...

Realistically, if Cape Air doesn't want to leave passengers or baggage behind, how many passengers can they take on any given flight? Six or seven? Less during winter months if they, like Big Sky, want to take extra fuel?

Is this the air service that Jefferson County & the Watertown area need? Is something better than nothing at all?

I don't doubt that Cape Air is doing a wonderful job at the airports they currently service, and it certainly is good to hear such glowing reviews. Especially after the disaster that Big Sky Airlines turned out to be. Just think how different things might be at this time, had anyone actually thought to get REFERENCES!

I see going from a 19 seat aircraft to a 9 seat aircraft as a step backwards when we should be going forward.

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