Essential reporting in volatile times.

Click here to stay informed and subscribe to The Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Click #isupportlocal for more information on supporting our local journalists.


Learn more about HD Media

Marshall University and Yeager Airport officials are looking into the feasibility of building a residence hall for students at MU's Bill Noe Flight School -- possibly in partnership with a hotel chain -- on an adjacent 2.5-acre tract.

Yeager Director and CEO Nick Keller briefed members of the Charleston airport's governing board on the development during a meeting on Wednesday.

The site under consideration for the development is now occupied by vacant general aviation T-hangars, slated for removal by the end of the year for re-use at Summersville Airport.

Marshall officials floated the idea of building the residence hall in partnership with a hotel chain, Keller said. The more than 200 students expected to attend the flight school each year make it possible for Marshall "to guarantee a certain occupancy rate for the hotel," making investment in the facility more attractive, he said.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the flight school took place two weeks ago. Since then, heavy equipment operators have been moving earth at the site to prepare it for construction. Paramount Builders, of St. Albans, has been awarded a $6.8 million contract to build a 10,500-square-foot classroom building and a 12,000-square-foot hangar in time for the start of fall term classes in 2021.

The aggressive construction schedule in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic "shows Marshall's commitment to this airport and to aviation," Keller said.

A hotel chain has yet to be identified as a potential partner for the project, since the concept has been a topic for discussion for less than one month.

In other developments at Wednesday's meeting, Yeager's governing board voted to issue up to $7 million in revenue bonds to proceed with work on capital improvement projects and buy safety equipment that ordinarily would have been financed with Passenger Service Charge (PSC) funds.

Airports receive PSC funds through fees charged to passengers using their facilities and collected by airlines. Passengers and PSC monies have been in short supply since March, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, "but now is the best time to work on these projects," according to Keller.

When passenger numbers begin to approach previous levels, PSC fees can be used to pay down the bond debt.

Yeager's bond issue will help pay for such items as new snow brushes, slip repairs, and certain construction work on a new U.S. Customs building.

Finally, the Federal Aviation Administration has given the Charleston airport permission to move forward with an Environmental Impact Statement for its plans to add 1,000-foot safety zones at each end of its runway and extend the runway to 7,000 feet through an extension into Coonskin Park.

The FAA has issued a request for qualifications for companies interested in preparing an EIS for the project. Work on the EIS is not expected to begin until sometime next year.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelhammer@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5169 or follow @rsteelhammer on Twitter.