State seeking new operator of Morrisville-Stowe State Airport
MORRISTOWN, Vt. (WCAX) - The lease for the operator of the Morrisville-Stowe State Airport is expiring, leaving pilots to wonder what’s next. While flights can still fly into the airport, the loss of the fixed-base operator (FBO), Stowe Aviation leaves no existing mechanics and no fuel for visiting pilots.
“With no fuel, that means you have to plan your flight such that whenever you need fuel, you’ll be near enough to another airport to find it,” said Robert Burley, a longtime pilot who keeps his plane at the airport. “The presence of Stowe Aviation was a definite boom to the central Vermont economy and the Vermont economy in terms of just the income and the tax dollars generated.”
While the state of Vermont owns the airport, Stowe Aviation was doing day-to-day staffing services and operations at the airport, including organizing fuel trucks after the state had to remove its fuel farm last summer for runway upgrades.
When the group of investors with Stowe Aviation took over the airport, they had big dreams for the future. However, they say they were promised big things as part of the federal EB-5 program, which became tainted in the eyes of many investors following the Kingdom Con fraud scandal. The business tried to keep operations going for seven years while operating at a loss.
“Although we kept running it and had a tremendous increase in air traffic and people were talking about how the airport became a really well-run airport, how we had services provided. But we were never able to develop it in the way we were supposed to develop it because of what the state did,” says Mitchel Weiss, an investor with Stowe Aviation.
Stowe Aviation wanted to pass their lease over to one of their investors who could continue running the airport, however, the state declined to allow this and is putting bids forth for a more formal request for proposal process.
“Hopefully, next week we’ll have a new RFP on the street looking for folks willing to submit their version of what they would like to do with the airport and we’ll go through the same process of evaluating them to find something that fits,” said VTrans’ Trini Brassard.
State officials say they have upwards of 10 interested parties to continue operations at the airport. They hope to have an operator nailed down by the end of June. They are also hoping to have a fuel farm installed by end of this summer, but issues with supplies could hamper these efforts.
For pilot Bob Burley, he hopes the situation can get worked out because of the importance he says this airport plays in the region. “I’m disappointed for the state of Vermont and for the local economy because there’s a good chunk of business that drives from traffic in and out of this airport,” he said.
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