Micahel Coppola taxied his Dakota Piper down the runway Monday afternoon at Cortland County Chase Field airport, parking it just outside the 7:47 Aviation hangar.
Coppola, of Skaneateles, was there to meet flight instructor Jim Spaller of 7:47 Aviation for recertification.
Coppola said he used to rent a hangar at the airport and if he lived closer he still would.
“Your hangar rental is really reasonable,” Spaller told county Deputy Highway Supervisor Trisha Jesset. “This is a great airport. It’s got great facilities.”
But this year, the county has several openings for hangars while airports nearby like Ithaca Tompkins International Airport are full.
However, Jesset said that having several hangars open is normal, “not just for us but for the economy too, especially right now with the COVID situation — there’s not much activity in general.”
Jesset said the county falls right in the middle for pricing with a single hangar costing either $220 or $240, depending on amenities, while a twin hangar is $310.
Jesset said she looked at Ithaca, Skaneateles, Norwich, Hamilton and Penn Yan to determine what they were charging for their hangars. The lowest costing hangar was $160 for single older hangars in Skaneateles, while its new single hangars are $350 — which was the highest of all the airports they talked to. Hamilton had the lowest twin hangar at $310, while Skaneateles had the highest at $350.
Jesset said there was a higher demand for twin-engine hangars a few years ago and had they not built, the county would have had a waiting list. The airport has 44 singleand twin-engine hangars, she said, of which six are vacant.
She also said the airport was set up as one of the few departments in the county to be self-sufficient, so “no tax revenue is used to fund operations or construction of new facilities.”
“Revenue is generated at the airport through hangar rentals and fuel sales,” she said. “For many years, the extra revenue the airport generated was actually put back into the general fund. In recent years, a reserve account was established to use the extra revenue for the local share of airport capital projects. The more hangars that are vacant, the less revenue there for the reserve account to use for future upgrades.”
Spaller said that filling the hangars could also depend on the year.
“We had times when there’s a waiting list and then you have times where they’re full,” Spaller said. He’s heard from other pilots that it can be difficult to lease a hangar in Cortland because of the paperwork.
“I think it’s still not maybe a great reputation because it has been streamlined,” Jesset said. Highway Superintendent Charlie Sudbrink has the authority to sign hangar lease agreements. Before the county changed who could sign off on rentals a couple years ago, pilots had to wait until the county attorney’s office approved the paperwork.
The county attorney still must eventually approve the paperwork, but Jesset said Sudbrink can get it started by ensuring the pilot has proof of insurance.
She said that another reason for empty hangars could be because the other airports are located in more popular destinations, such as Ithaca and Skaneateles.
Sudbrink said one other thing that could be decreasing the likelihood of people using the county’s hangars is that there is really no space, like a lounge, for the pilots.
Jesset said other airport managers said that really helps make a difference at their airports.
“It would be nice to have more facilities where transient pilots can come in to get information about weather and navigation,” said Pat Snyder, who has a hangar at the airport to store his Maule four-seater taildragger. He is also on an advisory board for the airport.
However, he also said the highway department is always working to improve the airport.
Jessett said an area at the airport houses the maintenance employee’s office and the McNeil and Co. office, but that it’s not meant as a lounge for pilots, she said, noting limited space and that the area is locked when the maintenance employee is not there.
“I know we have spoken about looking into that (creating a lounge) as far as any available grant funding moving forward,” Jesset said. “A lounge is a tougher sell in comparison with actual infrastructure upgrades and repairs.”