MAXWELTON — As the pandemic continues to wind down, Greenbrier Valley Airport saw its best March in a decade, in terms of fuel sales, according to airport director Brian Belcher.
Reporting to the Greenbrier County Airport Authority (GCAA) on Tuesday, Belcher said fuel sales hit 42,972 gallons last month, lagging behind March 2011’s 50,000 gallons by only about 14 percent.
Likewise, passenger counts are rising this year after bottoming out in 2020 while the pandemic spread, Belcher said. Only 43 passengers used the local airport in all of April last year; this year shows a “significant increase” with another 10 days to go in the month, Belcher said.
He offered another piece of good news to authority members, advising them that The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs will host a convention for an association of aircraft owners and pilots in September. That five-day event is expected to bring between 80 and 100 aircraft to Greenbrier Valley, Belcher said.
Belcher also recently attended an airport roundtable that included representatives from six airlines. That discussion was part of the ongoing effort to interest an airline in taking on a southern flight from Greenbrier Valley. In addition, Belcher said he and authority member Greg Furlong, VP of Sales and Event Services at The Greenbrier, had reached out to other area resorts to compile data to present to airlines as part of the pitch for the southern route.
The Greenbrier strongly supports the effort to secure that route. Furlong said at a GCAA meeting in January that the lack of a Florida connection means that the resort “is losing 10,000 rooms a month.”
The GCAA is still struggling to decide on a solution to the airport’s outdated, unattractive signage where the airport road meets U.S. 219 north of Lewisburg.
The issue was discussed at last month’s meeting with little progress, and the discussion at Tuesday’s meeting fared no better.
Belcher told the agency’s members that if they could at least come to a consensus on a budget for the project, consultant Jon McCalmont with Parrish & Partners would be able to match design options to the resources the GCAA might be willing to allocate.
McCalmont said the range of options for new signage is wide — a wooden post with a hanging sign could probably be commissioned for a few thousand dollars, while a two-sided digital sign would probably run between $50,000 and $70,000.
He said one idea that was floated at Tuesday’s meeting — buying a basic sign now with the intention of upgrading it with a digital add-on later — would not yield an attractive marquee for the facility. If the GCAA members want a digital sign, McCalmont recommended they “bite the bullet and go all in now.”
Belcher said it appears that an expenditure of between $20,000 and $30,000 would buy “something nice,” but the sign would not have a digital component.
With the budget still undetermined following the discussion, Tammy Tincher, who represents the Greenbrier County Commission on the authority, put forth a motion to table the issue, and the membership agreed unanimously.
Tincher said she knows of a local person interested in designing a sign for the airport and would follow up with that individual and bring a report back to the GCAA’s next meeting, in May.