September 5, 2001 Beaudry has big plans for Newport airport by Kate Siamon The Barton (VT) Chronicle NEWPORT — Newport State Airport has just received a runway facelift and a new man at the helm. Federal and state funds in the amount of about $2-million dug up and repaved the main runway, revamped the lighting and added a new parallel taxi way. And on August 1, Phil Beaudry signed on as the airport’s new fixed based operator. Mr. Beaudry is primed and ready to take the Newport State Airport to the next level. Fixing up the place, Mr. Beaudry said, was the first step. Frost heaves and age necessitated the repairs, and incoming funds coincided with Mr. Beaudry’s arrival. Federal funds accounted for about 90 percent and the other 10 percent came from the state. The federal funds came quickly, but, Mr. Beaudry said, the state took a couple of years of red tape dancing before the remainder could be allotted. If the runway project is completed by Monday, the work will be 30 days ahead of the 120-day schedule. Ready for more Not one to pander to inactivity, Mr. Beaudry is ready to do more. Extending the now 4,000 foot runway another 1,000 feet would allow larger airplanes to land. "We are absolutely losing money," Mr. Beaudry said of the many calls he receives from planes whose insurance demands at least 5,000 feet. This has been an issue for many years and the extension keeps hitting the same snag — seagulls. The seagulls are there because of the Coventry landfill. Extending the runway brings it closer to the landfill, closer to the seagulls and breaks federal guidelines of how close a runway can be to a landfill. "These planes are traveling approximately 140 miles an hour," Mr. Beaudry said. "The seagull becomes a bullet." The seemingly innocuous bird can wipe out engines and cause thousands of dollars damage. "It’s a safety issue," Mr. Beaudry said. "At any given time there can be over a 100 seagulls hanging out in the crossways." The state has a proposal on the table to address the landfill issues, but Mr. Beaudry is not anticipating political action to be swift. If the six-year state plan happens, it would also expand the number of tie downs for planes. "I have little space right now for overnight tie downs," Mr. Beaudry said. Jet fuel is also something that is lacking at the airport, and this frustrates Mr. Beaudry. He fears if he waits for the state to okay fuel, it could take four to five years. "I don’t want to sit here and wait for four or five years," he said. Mr. Beaudry said he is looking into providing the fuel himself, getting a loan or finding an investor and buying a fuel truck. "I want to see Newport Airport become very active." To entice the state to see his point of view, Mr. Beaudry jots down names of people who can’t use the airport because they need a longer runway or fuel. He plans to send this list to the state for persuasion. Newport State Airport receives air traffic from private and corporate flyers. Within the private pilots, there exists a culture akin to the RV camper — fly-in camping. Setting up camp sites at the airport is a dream of Mr. Beaudry’s. He said that people like to land their planes, break out the barbecue, pitch their tents and have a picnic. When questioned about tenting and eating in an active airport, Mr. Beaudry said, "They’re pilots — they love planes. When a plane takes off they rush to watch, no matter how many times they’ve seen it before." The runway for the pilot is what the river is to the fishing enthusiast. "They get away for the weekend," he said. "There are people out there who love to fly and are looking for places to land and enjoy. Let’s bring them here — the Northeast Kingdom could use it." Making the airport part of the tourist industry would bring a boost to the area, Mr. Beaudry said, as those who fly would also need to go into town and spend money. Mr. Beaudry said that for $4, a taxi will take people from the airport to Newport. Hayes Ford is close for those who want to rent a car. "This airport has so much potential," Mr. Beaudry said. "It’s so beautiful. We can sell the scenery." A restaurant and snack bar would also help boost traffic and is something Mr. Beaudry would like to see at the airport. His co-owner and fiancée Kathy Shambo has plans in the works to have an aviation educational camp next year — a camp where early teens can learn the joys of aviation. Flight shows with somersaulting planes for people to ooh and ahh at would help put the airport into the public eye. "I have a lot of grand plans," he said. "Who knows how many of them will come to light. But the potential is here. This is one of the most beautiful airports in the state of Vermont." A flight school that used to run out of the airport had to be nixed because of skyrocketing insurance costs. "Insurance costs are crippling the industry. As of this year the state waived the flight school," Mr. Beaudry said. "I can’t afford insurance on a trainer." Mr. Beaudry said it could cost up to $20,000 to insure a trainer plane. For now, Mr. Beaudry is happy about the refurbished runway. Happy that local Newport businesses reaped the benefit of government money — with Scott’s Construction Inc. heading the project and Pike Industries Inc. taking care of the paving. Mr. Beaudry said that all involved with the upgrades have worked hard to get the project done with little disruption to the airport. Ross Clark, the state engineer from the Agency of Transportation, was exceptionally good, Mr. Beaudry said, in keeping the airport open. To celebrate the runway’s facelift and to get the airport back in the limelight, Mr. Beaudry is hosting the airport’s Open House Day for the public on Sunday, September 23, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. During the day people can sup on coffee and donuts and then test their digestive constitution by voluntarily taking their feet and selves off the ground for a mere $20. The day will also be a reunion for all of the past airport operators — "if we can get them all here," Mr. Beaudry said. The most recent retiree, Alden Blanchard, will be present to honor the old and ring in the new. Albany native An Albany native, Mr. Beaudry has spent the last four years as the Director of Maintenance for Whitcomb Aviation at the Morrisville Stowe Airport. He is a licensed aircraft mechanic and pilot. Last winter Mr. Beaudry left the extreme snowy north for Virginia and spent his time building kit airplanes for himself and interested buyers. The plan, he said, was to relocate to Virginia with his fiancée Ms. Shambo, a fellow flight enthusiast, build kit planes and live the high life. Life threw a curve when the position to run the Newport State Airport came up. Mr. Beaudry said he saw an opportunity not to be missed. Mr. Beaudry also sells kit planes out of the airport. "I can build them or the customer can," he said. These kit planes run from approximately $16,000 to $40,000. "What people don’t realize is that if they can afford a new truck, they can buy a plane. I can sell you an airplane cheaper than a Dodge pickup." "People tend to have a funny image of pilots," Mr. Beaudry said. "They think they’re either rich or playboys. Average pilots are not rich people — they work for a living and enjoy flying." When it comes right down to it, flying is a state of mind, Mr. Beaudry said, not money. "I get up here to clear my head," he said 700 feet above Newport. "You see people down there and you say, ‘yeah I’ve got to land — but not yet.’" Attached Photo's: Phil Beaudry, Newport State Airport’s new fixed base operator, said the airport has great potential for tourism and expansion. He has sent out a mass mailing to all pilots announcing that Newport’s airport is open and ready for business. He said he is eager to bring flyers to the area and flying into the public’s eye. "I like to see the excitement on the face of someone who has never landed in water," he said. Poised for take off, Mr. Beaudry sports an experimental amphibian plane, the Aventura II. This kit plane can be built for approximately $25,000. Mr. Beaudry said that planes lodged at the airport are owned by a local logger, doctor, and a guard at the prison. An aerial photo of Newport State Airport shows off the newly paved 4,000 by 100 foot runway and the added parallel taxi way.