“West Virginia International Yeager Airport” might not roll off the tongue with the ease of the Charleston airport’s current name. But airport officials are hopeful the public will quickly adapt to using, and become adept at saying, the rebranded moniker when it becomes official on Jan. 1, 2022.
Yeager Airport’s governing board on Wednesday voted unanimously to approve its marketing committee’s recommendation for the name enhancement, which has been in the works since March. The board also voted to accept a $5.6 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to pay for an environmental impact statement for the planned extension of the runway and safety-overrun area into Coonskin Park.
According to the marketing committee’s report to the board, the name change — or “addition,” as it is referred to in the report — provides “an opportunity to raise brand awareness” for the airport, making it possible to attract more passengers.
While the Charleston airport currently offers no direct international commercial flights, it is the site of West Virginia’s only U.S. Customs and Border Protection port of entry. It is used as such by intermittent international flights by corporate and air cargo aircraft, using the services of a Customs agent with an office at the airport.
When a new, freestanding U.S. Customs and Border Protection building now taking shape next to Capital Jet Center, Yeager’s general aviation terminal, is complete in December, it will be able to handle Customs-clearance chores for private and military aircraft carrying up to 20 passengers each.
The addition of ‘West Virginia International’ to the airport’s name “will help us attract future air service,” network planners have told Yeager officials, according to the marketing report. The report also concluded that retaining the name of supersonic flight pioneer, air combat ace and West Virginia native Chuck Yeager in the airport’s title “will put General Yeager’s legacy on a national-international scale.”
Yeager Airport is one of 31 airports in the nation lacking an identifying city, state or region in its name, while West Virginia is one of only five states that lack airports with an “international” designation, according to the report.
The new name also should make it easier to identify the airport as an access point for the country’s newest national park, the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, and reduce occurrences of a geographical travel error that has plagued generations of air travelers.
“I don’t know how many people have arrived here thinking they are stepping into a terminal at Charleston, South Carolina,” said Ed Hill, chairman of Yeager’s governing board.
Yeager Airport Director and CEO Nick Keller said the environmental impact statement for the runway extension is expected to take about three years to complete. It will include public input and an examination of how the proposed construction would affect the ecology and operation of Coonskin Park, he said.
The $5.6 million grant to pay for the environmental study “is a critical first step for our dream of having an 8,000-foot runway” with 1,000-foot safety zones at each end, Hill said.
An $8.7 million rehabilitation project underway at Yeager will require the closing of the airport’s main runway from 11 p.m. on Fridays to 7 a.m. on Sundays for eight consecutive weekends, starting at 11 p.m. Aug. 6.