“Good,” Jim Meyer, CCAA Executive Director remembered thinking. “The airport is busy and this demonstrates why we need to build more parking.”
Meyer is from State College, earning his pilot’s license at age 17 on the very airfield he now works at every day. After serving in the Air Force, Meyer returned home and joined his family’s business at the Autoport. Eventually, he found himself serving on CCAA’s board and then stepping in as the interim director during a health crisis. Meyer has been in his current position since 2009.
In the CBICC office, attendees enjoyed refreshments and examined a detailed map that Meyer brought with him. Meyer pointed out where the parking lot additions will be added and how the current parking lot will be resurfaced in phases by Glenn O. Hawbaker.
“Right now we have just over 500 parking places,” Meyer said, but indicated that there will be over 1,000 parking places once the project is completed.
“The [board] members are the ones voting, who make things happen,” noted Meyer.
The board members meet at 4:00 pm on the fourth Thursday of the month at the airport and serve five-year terms; term limits are up to the appointing municipalities. The board members are appointed by their respective jurisdictions:
- Ron Filippelli – State College Borough – December 31, 2021
- Chris Groshel – State College Borough – December 31, 2020
- David Dix – Centre County – December 31, 2020
- Jim Swartzell – Benner Township – December 31, 2019
- Chip Aikens – Bellefonte Borough – December 31, 2019
- Dan Trevino – Patton Township – December 31, 2019
- Doug Johnson – Bellefonte Borough – December 31, 2023
- Bob Finley – Centre County – December 31, 2023
- Bruce Pincus – Centre County – December 31, 2022
“We get a lot of [board] members who get appointed and think we’re running the whole airport,” Meyer shared. “We’re not.”
While CCAA is responsible for the terminal and parking lot, Pennsylvania State University (PSU) is the owner of and the party responsible for the runway and hangars.
Although this unique arrangement presents challenges, Meyer and PSU’s Bryan Rodgers have collaborated to piece together project funding in the past, including grants that Rodgers was able to secure for the control tower that was built in 2011.
Another collaboration helped to bring United Airlines’ service to Chicago into reality.
“[PSU] did a revenue guarantee,” Meyer shared, adding that this incentive is not available for the CCAA to use since it is prohibited by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA). “It was gone by the first quarter.”
The Chicago route turned out to be very popular, with PSU fliers and others.
“It was a great investment,” added Meyer. “We now have up to eight flights a day going to Chicago.”
“Most of our traffic is business traffic – the parking lot is very full Sunday through Tuesday,” Meyer said. “Of course you have your families too. We’re a destination airport – we fly in basically the same number we fly out.”
CCAA’s data subscription informs the authority on who is booking a flight, whether an agency books it or the individual books their own flight. The data also shows customers’ final – and therefore most desired – destinations.
“We have the top three airlines servicing our airport,” Meyer told the attendees. “We’re flying to four of the top five destinations.”
“There are many reasons you are or are not flying somewhere,” Meyer stated, going on to share some of Delta Airlines’ requirements and sub-contractor policies that are currently prohibiting flights to Atlanta.
“We are a regional airport. We fly to hubs,” Meyer reminded the attendees. “Southwest doesn’t fly into regional airports. They’ll never come here. That’s not their business model.”
American Airlines and CCAA have been in conversation for many years.
“[The Charlotte airport] is out of regional gates currently,” Meyer shared with the attendees, noting that, by early 2020, construction of a new wing of regional gates will be completed. He is hopeful that this will provide an opportunity for service to this hub, located in the under-served region of the Southeastern part of the country.
Karl Mierzejewski asked how these conversations are initiated between an airport and an airline.
“Bryan Rodgers and myself, in the past, have gone to go to airline conferences with our consultant and it’s kind of like speed dating – you have about 12 minutes to give a pitch,” answered Meyer. “Airlines do not come to us, you have to give a case – present something that’s realistic.”
Along with data, CCAA may offer incentives that are allowed by the FAA, such as free landing fees or free rental space for a period of time.
In 2007, CCAA recorded its busiest year up to that time with 142,000 enplanements (people boarding a plane). That number was finally surpassed in 2018 with 151,000 enplanements. This year’s numbers are already 20% over last year with the busiest month – October – yet to happen.
“We’re kind of busting at the seams,” Meyer said. “Our next major project is the second floor…part of the terminal was built to have a second floor.”
The plan for the terminal’s second floor expansion is before the CCAA’s board members now, awaiting review and action.
The main drivers of revenue come from parking fees, rental car companies, and fees paid by rental car users.
As the only full-time employee, Meyer is especially proud of the 10-year trend of keeping costs hovering around $700,000 and is looking forward to what will come next for the airport.
Pointing to the mock-up drawings, Meyer helped the attendees envision what the terminal expansion could look like and offer customers in the future.
The next ABC Essentials will be on September 10 with Harris Township’s Manager, Amy Farkas, who will be sharing information about their Parks Committee and appointments to the Library Board. Click here to RSVP or here for a 2019 schedule.
Thank you to Maher Dussel, sponsor of ABC Essentials, a program collaboration of CBICC and its municipal members.