The terminal at the Upshur County Regional Airport. / My Buckhannon file photo

First-ever full-time manager is working to help business at the Upshur Regional Airport take off

BUCKHANNON – For the first time in its history, the Upshur County Regional Airport has hired a full-time general manager who’s eager to help the entity spread its wings.

In 2022, the Buckhannon-Upshur Airport Authority, which manages the airport, opted to hire general manager Jenny Powers, who’s working on marketing and promoting the airport. And although her position is new, Powers is no stranger to the Upshur Regional Airport. She began working as the airport’s part-time office manager in 2016, and as a result of the airport’s relatively small size, that position gave her vital experience, she told My Buckhannon in a recent interview.

“We are a small general aviation airport with a small staff, which means that I have acquired a lot of hands-on experience over the last seven years,” she said. “The Airport Authority decided to hire a general manager in August, and I was excited to take on the task of growing and promoting the airport.”

At a Buckhannon City Council meeting in February 2023, current Buckhannon-Upshur Airport Authority President Michael Ruffing said Powers had already taken some critical steps to ensure the airport’s long-term financial viability.

“We have somebody there functionally working every week on our behalf trying to generate more revenue for the airport, trying to make it more financially and fiscally stable so that it can start to general its own revenue along with the support we get from the city, from the county and obviously from the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration),” Ruffing said.

Ruffing said Powers designed and implemented a short-term lease strategy for half a hangar of vacant commercial space at the airport, and the new approach has vastly increased revenue.

Powers explained how the short-term lease approach works.

“Rather than holding the [commercial] space for a long-term tenant, our approach has been to allow aviation businesses that are working in the area – or even aircrafts just passing through – to utilize the space on a daily, night, or weekly basis depending on their need,” Powers said. “We have acquired a courtesy car that those pilots and crews can utilize to bring them into downtown Buckhannon and Upshur County to stay in our local hotels and utilize all of the wonderful amenities our community offers.”

“We are seeing increased rentals and increased fuel sales with this approach and are excited to continue to connect the aviation community to Upshur County,” she added.

One of the airport’s key needs now is more hangar space – i.e., structures in which aircraft can be safely housed – and Powers has been exploring avenues to secure funding to build additional hangar space.

“Being able to house more aircraft would mean we would have the ability to offer space to those individuals as well as offer additional space for aviation-related businesses and recreational activities,” she said.

Chapman Technical Group has developed a design for an eight-unit T-hangar, and Powers said the airport has been actively seeking funding so the project can come to fruition. The airport has applied for Congressionally Directed Spending through Sen. Joe Manchin’s and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito’s offices.

Powers said the airport’s primary goal is to continue and enhance its capacity to serve as an economic driver for Buckhannon and Upshur County. She would also like it to be a resource for local youth exploring various career paths.

“We want to continue to bring travelers and businesses to our area,” she said. “We also want to encourage community members and youth to explore the aviation industry when considering a career choice. There is a tremendous need for aviation mechanics and pilots.”

The Upshur Regional Airport hopes to host another Young Eagles event in 2023 and “get kids in the air so they can see for themselves how exciting aviation is,” Powers said.

Powers said anyone interested in checking out the Upshur Regional Airport is welcome to stop by anytime and scope out the area.

“I would like to invite the community to stop in the airport terminal anytime to look around,” she said. “We have a great staff, and they will be happy to answer any questions you may have.”

The Upshur Regional Airport is typically open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday. Follow them on Facebook or Instagram to keep abreast of announcements about upcoming events. Anyone with questions may call the Upshur Regional Airport at 304-472-9437.

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