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Lebanon Airport focuses on growth - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Lebanon Airport focuses on growth

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WEST LEBANON, N.H. -

Travelers on a Cape Air 9-passenger Cessna arrive in Lebanon on a Monday afternoon daily flight from Boston.  Dan Sipkosky is on his way to Dartmouth-Hitchcock.

"I work for a bio-tech company and I am here to do some training," Sipkosky said.  The Chicagoan said landing just 15 minutes from his final destination is a convenience that he couldn't pass up. "I didn't want to drive and this was kind of the most direct way to get here and the most convenient way to get out here," he said.

In 2012 the Lebanon Airport saw 10-thousand passengers -- an important number for the rural airport. "It's fantastic news," said the Airport's Manager, Rick Dyment.

The Airport is now eligible for a million dollars in improvement grants from the Federal Aviation Administration.  Fixing safety areas at the end of the runways is on the list. "Other projects would be hazard removal or tree clearing.  Airfield pavement, equipment, snow removal equipment, snow removal equipment building environmental studies," Dyment said.

A last minute offer in December -- $12 tickets to Boston or the airport's other daily destination, New York, tipped the scales.

"The Lebanon Airport clearly needs to focus on growing and keeping this million dollars I think was important, so my hats off to them for coming up with a good creative way of doing it," said Scott Milne with Milne Travel.

But Milne does not see the $12 dollar incentive as a long term solution  and he said that's how airport officials should be looking.  He said 20 years ago, when passenger counts were upwards of 50,000 a year in Lebanon, the city used the airport as a cash cow, selling off real estate and charging carriers extra fees rather than investing for the future.  Milne said as carriers came and went, so too did area businesses.      

"We have, without even thinking too much, five companies that have left here in the last 15 years because of the declining air service in Lebanon, so those are local jobs on the Vermont side of the River and the New Hampshire side of the river that have gone someplace where there is better air service," Milne said.

He said a regional commission to run the airport, rather than the city, might be the answer.  Airport officials said it all comes down to doing a better job at public relations.

"I think what we have to do is market -- simply get the word out," Dyment said.

Ultimately Dyment said travelers will benefit.  People like Dale Dezan, a Vermonter who's heading back to school in Kentucky.  "This Cessna is pretty nice.  It's nice to be in a small plane for a little bit before you get on a big plane.  I like that feeling," Dezan said.

Enplanements have been gradually on the rise since Cape Air first came here in 2008.  The airport manager says he hopes the 10,000 passenger milestone for 2012 becomes a trend.  

Like Rutland, Cape Air receives an essential air service subsidy to fly in and out of Lebanon Airport.  New FAA bids will go out to carriers next year.

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