WEYERS CAVE — Plans are moving forward for a nearly $3 million commercial hangar project to meet the needs of private aviators at Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport.
The Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport Commission, meeting Wednesday morning, agreed to secure interim financing to begin construction next year on hangars at the northern end of the Weyers Cave airport.
SVRA has four hangars now while a fifth site, under a long-term lease with Bridgewater’s Dynamic Aviation, is unimproved. The airport is planning to build one structure but possibly two hangars. which will be determined in the design phase and subject to additional grant funding SVRA is pursuing, according to Heather Ream, airport director of marketing and communications.
Greg Campbell, the airport’s executive director, told commission members they needed to act at this time to secure the financing to meet the planned construction schedule.
Daniel Lauro, an attorney with the Harrisonburg firm of BotkinRose, who serves as the commission’s counsel on such matters, said Luray-based Blue Ridge Bank submitted the best proposal of six banks for the interim loan. Blue Ridge offered a construction loan of about $2.9 million at 3.39% interest on a three-year term.
“Blue Ridge, by far, offered the best interest rate,” Campbell said.
Once construction is complete, the airport will transition the debt to a 40-year fixed loan through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That loan is structured in such a way there is no early repayment penalty as there is with some state and federal programs. Should interest rates go down before the loan closes, the USDA will similarly reduce the 3.875% rate, but it will not go higher, Lauro said.
None of the five localities represented on the commission — Waynesboro, Staunton, Harrisonburg and Augusta and Rockingham counties — will be on the hook for any of the debt. Campbell, though, said staff will apprise each of the local governments about the loan and project before it goes forward.
Campbell said with the financing in hand, the airport is in a position to advertise for design bids later this fall and, if all goes as planned, send the construction project to bid early next year.
Commercial hangar space generates a significant source of revenue at the airport, which took nearly $600,000 last year from aviators leasing space. Campbell, speaking outside Wednesday’s meeting, said there is a waiting list for hangar space and expects the new facility to fill up once ready.
Passenger numbers continue climb
Campbell reported that passenger traffic, trending 20 to 30% higher this year compared to last, set an all-time monthly high in July.
For the month, the airport saw 3,546 passengers fly SkyWest Airlines’ United Express. SkyWest, an integrated regional carrier with United Airlines, has offered daily jet service from SVRA to Chicago’s O’Hare International and Dulles International Airport in Northern Virginia since April 2018.
July’s numbers topped SkyWest’s previous record set in October — typically a high-travel month at SVRA — when 3,354 passengers took a United Express flight.
SkyWest replaced Orlando-based ViaAir, which airport officials said failed to deliver in terms of performance and a commitment to offer additional connections after becoming the carrier in 2016.