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"Pease airport is on its way to finding its niche"

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Pease airport is on its way to finding its niche
The Portsmouth (NH) Herald

The ground-breaking ceremony Monday at Portsmouth International Airport at
Pease for PlaneSense, an aircraft fractional ownership company, represented
more than an already major investment of a 40,000-square-foot hangar and
38,000-square-foot office building.

The commitment by Manchester-based PlaneSense has heralded in a new era of
emphasizing the airport's strengths as a major niche player in the New
England region.

The ceremony coincides with the recent New England Regional Airport System
Plan that calls for Portsmouth International to focus on "niche markets not
served by the existing surrounding airports."

Since its conversion from a military to civilian airport in 1991, Pease has
struggled mightily to find an identity in an area dominated by Boston's
Logan Airport and nearby major airports in Manchester and Portland, Maine.
Regular passenger service from established airlines has never panned out,
and small specialty airlines such as Business Express and Pan Am have
arrived with great hopes but floundered as many others have in an industry
undergoing a massive economic shakeup caused by deregulation and the
aftershocks of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Even Allegiant Airlines, which arrived last year offering low-cost service
to Florida, did not offer daily service -- and despite high passenger
totals, chose to cut its schedule to provide service only in the winter

It has been easy over the years to unfavorably compare the successful
land-side development of Pease to the airport. But that might have been a
case of comparing apples to oranges. The airport is already known as an
anchor base for the N.H. Air National Guard, having New England's longest
runway, a terminal, established fixed-base operator operations, convenient
parking and ground transportation access throughout the region, custom
services and a 24-hour air traffic control tower.

A Federal Aviation Administration official said last week that Pease has the
capacity "to be an incubator type of airport," one that could develop a
reputation for high-value general aviation, international charters and
lesser-known commercial carriers.

Pease Development Authority Executive Director Dick Green said the PDA is
emphasizing the development of corporate general aviation to take advantage
of Pease's facilities and location. Green said the PDA would devote less
time and energy to recruiting low-cost airlines whose uncertain financial
situations make them risky partners.

Perhaps Pease is finally on its way to developing a consistent identity by
building a solid reputation from the ground up. Rather than tying its
fortunes to a major passenger service, the airport can create an important
regional presence by emphasizing and marketing its strengths.

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