Business Aviation Access to Finger Lakes Region Expanding

Oct. 23, 2012

Upstate New York’s Canandaigua Airport (D38) recently broke ground on a runway expansion, aiming to maximize use by local businesses and attract high-tech companies to the Finger Lakes region.

The airport’s 3,200-foot-long runway will be extended to 5,500 feet and widened to 100 feet by late 2013, making it accessible for around 90 percent of current business jets.

The expanded runway, designed with medium to large business jets in mind, is the county’s bid to incentivize broader use of the airport, whose primary tenant is Mercy Flight Central, a nonprofit air medical services provider. The county anticipates FAA publication of localized performance with vertical guidance (LPV) non-precision approaches to both ends of the runway, and the longer landing strip will be equipped with standard runway end lights, as well as precision approach path indicators (PAPIs), said Zach Staff, an airport planner with McFarland Johnson, Inc., the firm contracted for the project.

“It’s an economic development play,” said Michael Manikowski, executive director of the Ontario County Industrial Development Agency, which owns the airport. “We’re hoping to utilize this growth and this infrastructure to attract more technology businesses to our area and to help the ones that are here to continue to grow.”

Manikowski said the expansion has the support of local businesses, including the State University of New York College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) Smart Systems Technology and Commercialization Center of Excellence. Paul Tolley, vice president of disruptive technologies for CNSE and executive director of the center, said the expanded runway would appeal to potential clients who would be able to fly in without traveling through a commercial hub.

“This expansion is going to be very helpful, because we work in the commercialization of nanotechnology, a cutting-edge technology at the forefront of what big-fund people and venture [capital] people want to invest in,” Tolley explained. “And those people [who] travel by VLJs or small business jets want to get in, see the technology and what we can do, how we can help them and then get out.”

Today, operators flying into the area using aircraft that require a runway longer than 3,200 feet must use Rochester International Airport, about 40 miles northwest of Canandaigua.

More business aviation activity would likely attract skilled jobs to the region. A 2010 Department of Transportation report found that Canandaigua Airport’s total impact was just over $12 million, supporting 57 jobs – both numbers Manikowski wants to increase.

“We see our primary traffic being business aviation use as we grow,” he said. “But certainly this [airport expansion] will enable folks from all over the U.S. and North America to come here.”