By Matthew Young, WV Press News Sharing
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Nick Keller, director and CEO of the West Virginia International Yeager Airport, provided an update on developments at airport — also known as CRW in flight plans — during the business panel at the annual West Virginia Press Association Legislative Breakfast Thursday morning at the Culture Center in Charleston.
Keller began by sharing the primary goal of the newly renamed airport, saying, “Our vision is to become the most important engine in the state of West Virginia through advancements in aerospace and education. In order to achieve that vision, we’ve adopted nine strategic goals.”
The “strategic goals” outlined by Keller were:
- Creating a positive customer experience.
- Building a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility.
- Investing in employees.
- Runway improvements and extensions.
- Providing education and quality jobs.
- Increasing and improving air service.
- Growing Capital Jet Center.
- Increasing military and civil aircraft operations.
- Improving facilities at Coonskin Park.
“The airport is the first impression of the state of West Virginia for hundreds of thousands of people per year,” Keller said. “We want to make sure that’s a really good first impression.”
Keller then explained that near-future plans include the building of a new terminal that will more closely resemble the multi-level terminals found at larger international airports.
“It will be a lot different than the experience passengers now have,” Keller said.
In addition, the airport has scheduled a ribbon-cutting ceremony at it’s new U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility for March 18. This facility will alleviate the need for an international business traveler to first stop at a larger, out-of-state airport in order to clear customs before proceeding to West Virginia.
Speaking for nearly 20 minutes, Keller painted a vivid picture of just how much more of a financial impact the airport can have on the state by adopting previously unthought of business strategies, saying “Being innovative and thinking outside of the box is really one of our key components of our success. I pretty much threw the box away.”
Keller then went on to explain”Operation Home Base,” which he described as being “one of the most innovative things that we’ve done.”
Through partnerships with the West Virginia National Guard, the Kanawha County Commission, and several coal mining companies the airport seeks to entice military units to utilize W.Va. International Yeager Airport as their home base for operations during training exercises. Through the program, unused coal mining areas are being repurposed to serve as military training landing sites.
As outlined by Keller, additional ongoing projects at the airport include an electric vertical takeoff and landing (EVTOL) area, a rental car “quick turn around” facility, and a new maintenance and public safety building. Also, once completed, the Aerospace Economic Development Center will serve to give “guests a front-row seat as planes land and take off,” and the airport’s proposed 100-room hotel would potentially house military and business travelers, as well as students of the Bill Noe Flight School.
The legislative breakfast was hosted by West Virginia Press Association in partnership with AARP WV, WVU University Relations, West Virginia International Yeager Airport, and the West Virginia Press Association Foundation.