Big changes are coming to the tiny, outdated state airport at Coventry, near Newport. FAA approval is being sought for a longer runway. Several new hangers will be built, the terminal will be modernized, and the state has applied for a new customs office on site.
And on Thursday, a new aircraft manufacturer was introduced at a press conference where the CTLS plane was unveiled.
It’s all part of the economic development plan for the Northeast Kingdom by ski resort owner Bill Stenger and his partner Ariel Quiros. Surrounded by local leaders and state officials, Stenger said the CTLS, a two-seater plane, will be assembled at the airport, and then either sold, or used at an onsite flight school. Tourists and residents, Stenger predicted, may want to learn to fly.
“It’s a new idea, it’s a worldwide market and we have a marvelous physical facility here, a beautiful place to recreate but also a wonderful place to learn more about the aviation industry as a pilot,” he said.
Tom Peghiny is President of Flight Design USA, which makes the plane. It runs on unleaded auto fuel. He says it’s more economical and better equipped with navigational and safety devices than some commercial aircraft in use today. He hopes it will train prospective pilots.
“Aviation has a problem. We’re not getting enough young people involved,” Peghiny said.
Joe Bertolino, President of nearby Lyndon State College, says training aviators and assemblers would be a good fit with its existing programs.
“We have a nationally recognized atmospheric sciences department and a Center for rural entrepreneurship,” Bertolino said.
As early as this fall, the aircraft plant may start producing a about 5 planes a year, adding roughly 25 jobs to the local economy. Construction of the larger improvements to the airport is slated to begin next April.