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Brunswick base agency selects Mass. firm to provide airport services

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Brunswick base agency selects Mass. firm to provide airport services

BATH — The company that will provide aircraft fuel and maintenance services at Brunswick Naval Air Station is the same one performing those duties at Norwood Memorial Airport in Massachusetts.

FlightLevel Aviation will become the fixed-based operator at BNAS, pending the transfer of the airport property to the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority by the U.S. Navy. The MRRA, which is implementing the base's civilian reuse plan, voted 6-0 on Tuesday to select FlightLevel as the airport's FBO.

BNAS is scheduled to close in 2011. However, airport operations there are expected to end in two weeks. MRRA officials said Tuesday that the agency hopes to gain control of the airfield by September, although that depends on completion of a comprehensive survey by the Navy and speedy property transfer – a tenuous possibility.

MRRA will eventually own the airport, while FlightLevel will provide basic services for aircraft. The company is based in Norwood, Mass. According to Peter Eichleay, the company's president and a Bowdoin College graduate, FlightLevel became the FBO at Norwood Memorial Airport in 2007.

Eichleay is also involved with Columbia Air Services, a network of airport FBOs in several states, including Hancock County Airport in Bar Harbor and Rutland Southern Vermont Regional Airport. Eichleay said Tuesday that his Columbia affiliate operates out of Lakeland, Fla.

Eichleay said he is optimistic about FlightLevel's expansion to Brunswick. He said the company was flourishing when it took over the Norwood FBO in 2007.

"We were in major expansion mode at the time," he said, although the economy has tempered its growth. He said he is hopeful that the coporate jet maintenance market will rebound and grow.

According to a report in 2008, Eichleay had ambitious plans to build more hangar space in an attempt to lure private jet traffic to Norwood, a facility located just outside of Boston.

Hanger and tie-down space shouldn't be an issue at BNAS, where FlightLevel is expected to lease a portion of 166,000-square-foot Hangar 6.

FlightLevel's operations won't begin until MRRA takes over the airport.

"We'll keep our fingers crossed that that happens in September," MRRA Chairman Art Mayo said. "But knowing what (the Navy) has done thus far, it could be (later)."

The authority is also awaiting word from the Navy about retaining the airport's instrument landing system. The MRRA and the state's congressional delegation are fighting to keep the system, which allows pilots to land in bad weather.

According to MRRA Executive Director Steve Levesque, the ILS system has been requested by a Navy base in Fort Worth, Texas. Levesque said replacing the system in Brunswick could cost up to $1 million. 

The system could be replaced by a Global Positioning System, although Levesque noted that older aircraft aren't equipped with GPS-guidance equipment.

In December, the state's congressional delegation sent a joint letter to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, requesting that the ILS system stay in Brunswick.

Levesque said last week that the MRRA hasn't received a response from Mabus.

On Tuesday, the MRRA board also decided to dial back the frequency of its meetings, from monthly to bi-monthly. 

Mayo said most of the board's work is done at the committee level. Those committees will continue to meet monthly, while action by the full board will occur at regularly scheduled meetings or special meetings. 

The full board will next meet March 16 at Maine Street Station in Brunswick. 

Steve Mistler can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 123 or smistler@theforecaster.net