Ogdensburg unveils new airport as Allegiant Air touches down

JASON HUNTER n WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES Patricia Arduine, Potsdam, waits to board the first Allegiant Air outbound flight from Ogdensburg to Sanford, Florida Wednesday at the Ogdensburg International Airport. (Robinson's story)

JASON HUNTER n WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES
Patricia Arduine, Potsdam, waits to board the first Allegiant Air outbound flight from Ogdensburg to Sanford, Florida Wednesday at the Ogdensburg International Airport.

By LARRY ROBINSON
LROBINSON@OGD.COM

Two separate families flying in and out of the Ogdensburg International Airport on Wednesday were representative of why the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority believes the new facility will spur economic development and increased cross border traffic.

Margaret Mitchell, of Lake Placid, Fla., had just arrived in Ogdensburg aboard the first Allegiant Air flight into the new Ogdensburg airport. The plane touched down shortly before noon. Ms. Mitchell was on her way to visit her mother in Ottawa.

“I used to fly into Syracuse,” she said.

Inside the airport terminal, Canadian traveler Brandon Posner, his wife Sarah, and the couple’s two children waited in line to catch the next Allegiant Air flight out of Ogdensburg. Mr. Posner said the family was on its way to Florida and drove from Ottawa to Ogdensburg to catch the flight. He said the monetary savings flying from the U.S. side of the border was substantial.

“It’s $1,000 cheaper,” Mr. Posner said.

The two families, from opposite sides of the U.S.-Canada border, are exactly the type of customers OBPA officials were hoping to lure when they began their $26 million expansion of the Ogdensburg International Airport more than three years ago.

Hundreds of people gathered at the Ogdensburg airport shortly before noon on Wednesday to play a part in the official opening of the new airport and to watch Allegiant Air flight 644 touch down. The flight, from Sanford, Fla., was Allegiant’s first foray into Ogdensburg. The crowd cheered as the A320 Airbus touched down. Within moments of the landing local citizens and officials heralded the arrival as the start of a new era for the region.

“This is great,” said a smiling Jeffrey Michael Skelly, owner of JMS Mechanical Contractors in Ogdensburg. “This is something we’ve all been waiting for.”

Mr. Skelly said he is a frequent traveler and has already booked tickets to Florida on multiple occasions over the next several months.

Standing next to Mr. Skelly, Ogdensburg City Councilman Michael D. Morley also watched intently as Allegiant Air flight 644 touched down smoothly, glided down the runway and taxied to the terminal. Two fire trucks arched the plane with streams of water as it taxied into position, an aviation tradition signifying that a maiden voyage has been completed.

“This is a great first step to us getting some development in this place,” Mr. Morley said. “This is a major event for us and it’s going to be nothing but a bonus for Ogdensburg and the region.”

After passengers debarked from the plane, a large crowd gathered under a tent next to the terminal and listened as the Ogdensburg Free Academy school band played the Canadian and American national anthems.

A host of dignitaries, including U.S. Rep. Elise M. Stefanik; representatives of U.S. Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand; state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton; State Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa; Ogdensburg Mayor Wayne L. Ashley, and other officials were on hand.

Mr. Ashley said the completed airport expansion was “a dream come true,” and Ms. Stefanik said the airport opening represented “a landmark occasion for our entire north country region.”

Wade A. Davis, executive director of the OBPA, and a driving force behind the facilities expansion, gave an emotional speech in which he said the $26 million expansion, which was completed within three years instead of the usual 10 years for a project of this size, would not have been possible without a bipartisan effort at the local, state and federal levels.

“The region needs economic opportunity and the authority delivered,” Mr. Davis said.

Allegiant Air will now offer twice weekly flights between Florida and the Ogdensburg International Airport, which has a new terminal and runway capable of handling the low-cost carrier’s Airbus A320 jets that can hold 177 people.

The airport’s website is OGSair.com.