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August 13. 2014 11:26AM

Nashua Airport activity on the increase after 5 slow years

NASHUA — Despite the unexpected departure of the Nashua Airport Authority chairman, airport management said Tuesday that the facility is beginning to see an uptick in aircraft activity.

“We have seen the first increase in aircraft operations since 2008,” said Airport Director Stephen Bourque, who has held the position for about a year. “For the first time in five years, we haven’t seen a decline.”

Since January, there has been about a 2.6 percent increase in aircraft landings and departures, according to Bourque. In addition, there has been about an 11.5 percent increase in aircraft operations over the past three months, he said.

Donald Davidson, who had been chairman of the Nashua Airport Authority, recently stepped down from his post with little explanation — three years before his term was set to expire. Davidson has been unavailable for comment about his abrupt departure, and Bourque is referring all questions about the matter to Davidson.

In the meantime, Bourque stressed this week that there are positive things taking place at the airport that deserve recognition — specifically the increase in aircraft activity.

On the heels of a drastic decline in aircraft operations since Daniel Webster College closed its flight school, there are now improvements at the airport, according to its director.

From January 2013 to July 2013 there were 32,109 takeoffs and landings at Boire Field. From January to July of 2014 there were 32,972 takeoffs and landings, said Bourque.

He acknowledges that this is still much less than what was taking place at the airport’s peak in 2005, which was about 126,873 aircraft operations a year. That eventually declined to about 101,671 operations in 2008 and about 65,965 operations in 2011.

Those declines, he explained, had nothing to do with airport management, but instead were tied to the economy and a decrease in aviation interest and users.

Bourque is now focusing on the improved numbers taking place in the past few months.

“This airport used to be the busiest general aviation airport in New England. Things have declined over the years,” he admits. “This is new, unchartered territory for the airport.”

The current rules and guidelines now in place for airport users have not been updated in about 14 years, said Bourque. A new set of rules and regulations were drafted and introduced to the airport community for review earlier this year.

“We asked for input from the entire airport community,” he said. After receiving some resistance from a “small group” of airport users, Bourque said that ultimately no changes were made to the proposed rules, which he described as appropriate.

One of the biggest concerns from airport users was a Federal Aviation Administration policy that prohibits non-aeronautical items to be housed inside hangars, essentially ensuring that they do not become storage units. While the airport’s standards and procedures have not yet officially changed, Bourque acknowledges that they will again have to be reviewed and possibly updated in the near future.

“The (Nashua) Airport Authority has done a very good job,” said Roland Noyes, a pilot since 1947. Noyes said that Davidson’s departure is a great loss for the airport, but he is optimistic that activity at the facility will continue to move in a positive direction.

“I was very pleased that (Davidson) stayed on as long as he did,” added Noyes.

Davidson, whose last day on board was July 31, is currently working in Alaska with the Federal Emergency Management Agency where he serves as air operations branch director. Sandra Adams has been nominated to fill his vacant seat, and Dennis Stephens is serving as the board’s interim chairman until a new chairman is selected in January.

khoughton@newstote.com


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