By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
You’ve heard the expression ‘You’ve come a long way, baby!’ … that statement seems to more than illustrate what has happened at the North Central West Virginia Airport in Bridgeport. And, certainly, looking back at its history, it applies in an overwhelming way.
Let’s look back at that history. Turn back the clock to the early 1930’s when economic decline was widespread due to the Great Depression. Times were tough all around, but at least a few people continued to think ahead to better days, and in doing so, there was a realization that air travel would probably be the transportation of the future. It was during that time that what was originally called the Tri-County Airport (Harrison, Marion and Taylor Counties) came to be developed. Land was leased for the new airfield and it was by today’s standards rather primitive … a short, grassy strip of land. Today, eight decades later, this same airfield – now called North Central WV Airport – boasts of a runway 7,000 feet long and includes many acres of developed land run by the Airport Authority with representatives from both Harrison and Marion Counties. Numerous expansions and improvements have been made through the years that were quite ambitious undertakings.
And now, thanks to funding from the FAA’s Airport Improvement Project (based on their enplanements), further improvements have been made.
Airport Director Rick Rock said many of the recent improvements were necessary – such as the replacement of windows for energy efficiency and the upgrade to a flat rubber roof on parts of the building. The daily parking lot adjacent to the terminal building has also been paved and marked, thus improving what was before just gravel.
Airport Authority President Ron Watson added, “We were fortunate to do some creative things and market our airport, and our passenger numbers grew enough to make us eligible for this AIP money. However, it can only be used for infrastructure improvements … and if we change any of our plans, those plans for spending, we must still seek FAA approval first. For these recent airport improvements, we are still spending money that was approved from two years ago. And we still have projects identified for the future.”
Perhaps the most prominent and noticeable enhancement is a new canopy at the main entrance. Watson calls it a “terminal facelift”.
“This new look changes the façade of the terminal building itself and lighted signage certainly identifies it as CKB, but it is also a great improvement – especially for those flying during inclement weather,” he continued. “Before, our canopy was not high enough to permit buses to drive under it. Now it does, so passengers can be picked up and let off right at the door, which is a convenience for our passengers. And, this area will now allow for three lanes of traffic instead of two.”
In the past couple of years, NCWVA has also added a jet bridge so there is no more going up and down steps to get on and off of an airplane. It is all a covered area. And the holding area has been expanded so that passengers can be screened for a flight, and sit down comfortably to wait for boarding.
As more AIP funding becomes available, the airport will continue to address improvements and enhancements at NCWVA and look to toward its future.
Watson concluded, “I think it is important to note here that although the airport is owned by taxpayers of both Marion and Harrison Counties, during the past eight years or so, it has been more or less self-sustaining and continues to be.”
Tomorrow (June 5th) the airport will celebrate these newest renovations with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the afternoon. And on that same day is the first Allegiant flight to Myrtle Beach … so it will be a double celebration at CKB.