Fixed-base expansions take wing at Portland Jetport

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PORTLAND — The future of charter services, aircraft sales and service, and fueling operations is taking flight at the Portland International Jetport.

On July 29, Northeast Air at 1011 Westbrook St. celebrated the grand opening of its new 4,000-square-foot expansion.

The opening came several months after next-door neighbor MAC Air Group moved across the Jetport to a new, 43,000-square-foot building and hangar at 100 Aviation Blvd. The move allowed Northeast to expand.

“We’ve had this on our radar for 10 or 15 years,” Northeast Vice President and General Manager Mark Goodwin said July 27.

MAC Air Group co-owner Allyn Caruso is as enthused about his company’s new offices, hangar and fuel storage area.

“It is great. It has been a long process; you forget how much is involved when you build a building from scratch,” Caruso said Monday.

Last year, both companies signed what could be 40-year leases with the city to be fixed-base operators at the Jetport. Northeast Air was looking to expand and improve its facilities for pilots and customers, but Goodwin said the expansion will not necessarily add air traffic.

“Our approach is to be like a high-end hotel,” Goodwin said. “Whether you are flying recreationally, or on business or corporate, those are the people we are trying to accommodate.”

Caruso said the fuel sales that elevate the company to the level of fixed-base operator was a needed progression. 

“It helps us be more competitive in our charter business. It was the next logical step,” Caruso said.

The companies have invested about $11 million for the expansion, with Caruso estimating construction and getting subsidiary MAC Jets set up to cost $7.5 million. 

The amenities added for pilots and customers have common touches, including enlarged waiting areas, quiet rooms where pilots can rest, rooms where they can create and submit flight plans, fitness rooms, more storage and kitchens.

Goodwin said the construction, along with about 50 more parking spaces, cost about $3.5 million.

At Northeast Air, the waiting area is glass-enclosed and angled at a 10-degree slant for two stories. 

“We needed more space for people to congregate and wait. This will cure it,” Goodwin said. “One hundred percent of the people we have inconvenienced are excited about this.”

There is a practical aspect to renovation and expansion, Goodwin said.

“We always had a bottleneck,” Goodwin said. “When you are trying to get a head count, this gives us more area to separate our customer base.”

As a fixed-base operator, Northeast also sells and services planes, and handles all fueling and de-icing operations at the Jetport.

“We touch nearly every plane that comes in or goes out,” Goodwin said last winter.

The catalyst for Northeast Air’s expansion came when former next-door neighbors MAC Air Group made its move. 

Caruso, his wife Alysan Caruso, and their son, Travis Caruso, operate a family-owned business that has been a Jetport fixture since 1959. Until March, company offices were in the original terminal building on Westbrook Street.

“It was a historic building, but it was in bad shape,” Caruso said.

The move across the runway has allowed MAC Air Group to become a full fixed-base operator as it now stores and sells fuel. With some finishing touches needed on the hangar floor, MAC Air has not set a grand opening date, but Caruso said he anticipates something in September.

The Carusos were essentially given a blank canvas to design and decorate the new offices, and an enlarged hangar that will eliminate the need to store three planes in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

“I do a lot of traveling, I get the opportunity of seeing other FBOs. It helped immensely in designing in what we wanted to do here,” Caruso said.

Alysan Caruso took the lead in interior design, adding vintage steamer trunks as end tables, aircraft sculptures and wallpaper with vintage airplanes on the walls of the pilots’ planning area.

“We really wanted it to have a warm, comfortable feeling,” she said. “We also have Wi-Fi, even on the ramp.”

MAC Air also has hangar and maintenance buildings on the Portland side of the runways near the Fore River.

The companies have supported each other through the expansions.

“Portland has not seen anything like this in the past, it was a place that just had basic services,” Allyn Caruso said.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Northeast Air Vice President and General Manager Mark Goodwin says his company’s expansion at the Jetport “has been on our radar for years.”Contractors were putting the final touches in place at the expanded Northeast Air waiting area on July 27. The company celebrated its $3.5 million expansion July 29.MAC Air Group shifted its operations to the South Portland side of the Portland International Jetport in late March. A grand opening is anticipated for September.

The expanded Northeast Air terminal and offices near the Portland International Jetport sit on a portion of the original airport terminal site on Westbrook Street.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.