Private jets like this one are an increasingly common sight at the Laconia Airport. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)
By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Since 2009, the number of jet aircraft flying in and out of Laconia Airport has risen every year, and with 1,004 flights tallied through August, volume this year is sure to top the high of 1,374 flights recorded last year.
Lee Avery of Sky Bright, one of two fixed-base operators, or FBOs, providing aeronautical services at the airport, who counts arrivals, said that jet flights numbered 944 in 2009, 1,038 in 2010, 1,113 in 2011, 1,144 in 2012, 1,176 in 2013, 1,184 in 2014 before climbing to 1,374 last year.
“The traffic has surpassed all expectations,” he said, adding that the increase in sales of jet fuel has outpaced the growth of jet traffic.
Marv Everson, who manages the airport, traced the increasing traffic to the ongoing recovery of the economy and low cost of fuel. He said business executives and seasonal residents account for the largest share of those traveling to the Lakes Region by either corporate, private or chartered jets.
“With the swing in the economy,” he remarked, “they seem more willing to spend the money.”
Avery agreed, saying that “the total inconvenience of the commercial airlines” has led companies to turn to corporate and charter jets. “They can take five or six of their people to three or four locations in one day on a small or medium sized plane for something between $5,000 and $7,000.”
Dave Emerson of Emerson Aviation, the other fixed-base operator who operates a charter service, said his business has grown as firms seek to increase efficiency without relying on commercial airlines.
“They’re loosening up their wallets,” he said.
Emerson also noted that while traffic is heaviest between the Fourth of July and Labor Day, off-season is increasing, with the private schools in the region — New Hampton School, Brewster Academy, Tilton School and Holderness School — representing a significant share of it. He said parents fly private jets to ferry their children to and from school as well to visit them during the year.
Both Emerson and Avery pointed to seasonal homeowners, some with their own airplanes, as another sure of the increasing traffic. Emerson said that the NASCAR teams, which once had a strong presence at the airport, have begun flying larger planes, which require the security and emergency services only Manchester can provide.
Likewise, both the fixed-base operators believe the jet traffic is sufficient to warrant construction of heated hangars large enough to accommodate jet aircraft. Emerson that the de-icing process applies chemicals that must be captured and reclaimed by a closed system, the cost of which would not be justified by the volume of winter traffic. But, he explained a plane freed of ice in a heated hangar overnight would be able to fly the next day. A 12,000-square-foot hangar, with a door 28 feet high and 100 feet wide, is required for planes with tails 27 feet tall and wingspans of 90 feet.
“I have three planes waiting for the space right now,” Emerson said, “and we’re starting to see more call for it.”
Emerson welcomed the rising volume of jet traffic and reminded those leery of the noise that “These newer planes are whisper quiet and will get out here like homesick angels.”
More than 1,300 jets arrived at the Laconia Airport last year. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)
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