COLONIE Dignitaries from nearly all aspects of state government were on hand for continued good news at Albany International Airport.
From within a brand new 17,000-square-foot maintenance hanger, CommutAir officials formally opened its new maintenance and repair facility in Albany on Friday, Jan. 22. Last week’s announcement marks the commuter airline’s transition to move its principle maintenance space from Cleveland to the Capital District. When airline president Andrew Price was tasked with decision of which location to choose, he said Albany was “an easy choice.”
The opening of the new $4.2 million facility can be viewed as a homecoming of sorts. Since the airline was first established in 1989, Champlain Enterprises, LLC. – operating as CommutAir and United Express – has conducted flights in and out of the Capital District for all but a few of those years.
Champlain Enterprises has flown under several different flags, including Allegheny Commuter, Piedmont Commuter, USAir Express and Continental Connection. Champlain previously maintained its fleet of aircraft at Albany International before Continental moved on to Cleveland.
CommutAir announced last November it was continuing its relationship with United with the promise of adding 40 Embraer ERJ145 jets to its fleet – the first of which stood on display within the hanger on Friday. Brand new, one turbofan-powered, narrow-bodied passenger jet seats 50 passengers and retails at approximately $19 million.
With the expansion of the airliner’s fleet, and the transition of its maintenance hub back to Albany, comes the promise of more than 100 jobs to the Capital District.
“So far, we have created about 80 techincal and managerial positions here,” said CommutAir Chairman and Co_Founder John Sullivan. “And, we expect that number to grow to 150 to 200.”
CommutAir operates throughout the Northeast, with more than 100 daily flights through Newark and Washington-Dulles. The airline currently offers six daily flights from Albany, but as the fleet grows, both the number of flights, and destination choices, are expected to increase. The last of the 40 jets are expected to join the fleet within the next two years.
“The CommutAir maintenance facility and the jobs that it has created is an outstanding example of the positive impact Governor [Andrew] Cuomo’s economic development plan has had on the Albany International Airport and our community,” said New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Matthew Driscoll.
The department of transportation gifted $3.8 million towards the new maintenance hanger through the Regional Economic Development Council. “It serves as a tangilble result of the work done by the councils to redefine the planning process and tailor economic development plans to each region,” said Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy.
CommutAir is expected to triple in size over the next two years. With the addition of more jets and expanded maintenance crew, the Albany County Airport Authority has responded by doubling the size of the maintenance hanger space the airliner has been leasing. The airliner has also leased space at the former Eclipse Aviation hanger to provide space for employee training.
“I applaud Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Driscoll for partnering with CommutAir to help expand their fleet and operation,” said New York Senator Neil Breslin. “This expansion will not only create hundreds of jobs and build upon our many recent economic successes it will also enhance the community experience.”