RIAC hopes to restore airport services

Thu, 01/10/2019 - 5:45pm
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Officials from the Rhode Island Airport Corporation have communicated to island resident Henry duPont that it hopes to restore the level of on-site services that have been previously provided at the Block Island State Airport. The Block Island Airport has been without a fixed base operator since November, which is when the contracted Fixed Base Operator, FlightLevel Aviation, ceased its seasonal operations.

duPont, who is also a pilot, has been prodding RIAC to restore airport services, such as taking pilot calls, parking airplanes, and tying them down. He has also asked RIAC to provide the airport some necessary tools and equipment, such as chocks, so that pilots will be able to park their own planes while the state continues its search for a new FBO. As of press time, however, there has been only one response to the state’s RFP seeking an on-site operator, which came from an on-island company.

The New Shoreham Town Council also approved a resolution written by duPont asking the state to restore these services. It did so at its meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 9.

The resolution concludes by stating, “Now therefore, Be it Resolved, that the Town of New Shoreham joins with its elected State Representatives to urge the Rhode Island Airport Corporation to restore essential airport services funding related to professional on-site Fixed Base Operator (FBO) services at the Block Island State Airport to the service levels provided at all five outlying State Airports, to resume providing essential airport operation services  at the Block Island State Airport.”

In a letter dated Jan. 4 from Alan Andrade, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of RIAC, to duPont, Andrade states: “In our call this morning with you, Vice President Richard McCurley, and myself, we believed all parties were in agreement. We want to capture the details of our conversation for all copied to provide an update on our progress. As background, AvPorts” — which oversaw operations at the state’s five regional airports and whose contract was not renewed — “had one full-time and two part-time summer seasonal personnel. We want to accomplish that same level of service. With the AvPorts agreement expiring on June 30, 2018, we tried to procure a full-service FBO for all five airports. AvPorts had the opportunity to propose a winning bid. We did not receive any proposals with the inclusion of Block Island.  At the same time, we are glad we were able to fill a full-time year round aviation experienced position to staff Block Island. Now, we are trying to supplement the operation with part-time help as provided by AvPorts in the past.”

In his response, duPont wrote: [I]t is good to hear that RIAC Management feels that FBO Services should be restored to the Block Island State Airport. From the B.I. State Stakeholders point of view, we are only asking for the same level of professional FBO services which are being offered at the four other outlying airports, and which have been offered here at the Block Island State Airport for the last 68 years. This would include FBO Services from an experienced FBO airport service provider like FlightLevel Aviation and not a non-aviation, Block Island-based business, which you are apparently seeking in your current RFP.  Since FlightLevel is already under contract with RIAC, and was inadvertently allowed to opt out from providing services on Block Island, presumably, their services can be restored out here with a change order to their agreement which also provides the necessary funding, (as per the payroll expense line in each of your BID airport budgets), without RIAC having to send out additional RFPs for these services in the future.” 

There is also some more immediate help to be had, according to duPont.

“Mr. Andrade, the Block Island State Airport also has some immediate needs which RIAC Management could show some good will by providing. For example, I pointed out to Mr. McCurley that we were seriously short of tiedown lines and wheel chocks.  If you would be kind enough to procure a dozen of each and send them down here, we would be most grateful. Thanks again for your shared interest in making our airport the safest, most welcoming, and best managed airport in the State Airport System.”

A letter was also written by duPont to newly re-elected Gov. Gina Raimondo on Jan. 2. 

“As a Block Island based pilot and a Block Island State Airport tenant, I have been working with the Rhode Island Airport Corporation, the Town of New Shoreham, and other Block Island State Airport stakeholders to help make our airport the safest, most welcoming, and best managed airport in the State. I am writing you today to report that on September 30, the Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC) has cut funding for essential airport services at the Block Island State Airport which has caused Flightlevel Aviation, the RIAC contracted airport services provider, to lay off their Block Island State Airport employees, and pull out of the Block Island State Airport,” duPont wrote. “This leaves the airport with a single RIAC maintenance employee who naturally cannot provide airport attendant services in additional to his airport maintenance duties outside of his working hours, or on his days off. This means that Block Island State Airport, the second busiest airport in the state, is the only airport in the State Airport System without a full time airport attendant.”