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Government & Politics

Northeast Ohio Regional Airports are Security Gateways for RNC

CAK Main Terminal
TIM RUDELL
/
WKSU
Akron Canton Regional Airport

Fifty-thousand people, including 15,000 members of the media, are expected for the Republican National Convention. Many will arrive aboard an estimated 750 private and charter flights expected for the event. 

A sleek corporate jet disembarks passengers outside a private aviation  complex at Akron-Canton Airport. Eric Berg, who runs Av Flight, says a stream of planes like this will be rolling through during the RNC. 

“Certain fixed-base operators, which is what we are, go through training and we secure aircraft, and they’re allowed to fly into Washington, D.C. And that is in place all the time. What they’re doing for the RNC is putting in a temporary flight restriction. They’re going to treat Burke and Hopkins as Washington, D.C. for that week.

Gateways to the RNC
Mike Hillman runs Winner Aviation at Youngstown-Warren Regional, which will also serve as what the TSA calls a ‘gateway’ airport.

“We’re not talking about the airlines here, but people with their own planes, or corporate planes, make an appointment with TSA.  Come here.  Clear.  And, then fly up.  Or, park here and drive up.”

Parking space for aircraft is one reason why 1,500-acre Youngstown-Warren, and 2,400-acre Akron-Canton were picked as gateways.  

photo of Arrivals Area Akron Canton Airport
Credit Tim Rudell / WKSU
The arrivals area at Akron-Canton Airport

But, convention goers whose planes remain at one or the other of them, still have to get to Cleveland. Brian Warren manages Thomas Limousine of Akron.

"What we have found is most of the places in Cleveland are sold out.  Most of the things we are getting inquiries about, and also a lot of my bookings, already are in the Canton market. “

A really big parking lot
Row upon row of hangers, an aircraft parking area big enough to handle a jumbo-jet in one corner, and extended runways, are making Akron-Canton especially popular with incoming private and corporate aviation customers.

Jumbo Jet Stored at CAK -- there is a lot of room
Credit TIM RUDELL / WKSU
Jumbo Jet stored at CAK, which has lots of room to park aircraft

E-Z off, E-Z on
Kristie Van Auken is Akron-Canton’s vice president of marketing and communications.

“What we find is, corporate travelers and corporate pilots like to fly in and out of here because of our 24-7 air traffic control coverage. We’ve got the runway length. We’ve got everything they need. And it’s easy in, easy out.”

Thomas limousine’s Brian Warren says the proximity of major highways to both Akron-Canton and Youngstown-Warren appears to be swaying many private plane travelers to stay near the gateways airports.

“We’ve had inquiries about the Youngstown airport where people come in could be staying over toward the Kent area. Logistically, all of those -- Akron, Canton, Kent, Youngstown -- have the interstate access so you can make it to downtown Cleveland in a very decent amount of time.”

There is another practical factor about the area’s gateways airports.  Because private and corporate aviation are main businesses for them, they have the necessary logistical and technical support readily at hand.

photo of Kristie Van Auken
Credit TIM RUDELL / WKSU
Kristie Van Auken, VP of Marketing & Communications

Meanwhile, Kristie Van Auken, walking through a newly expanded ticketing and check-in section of Akron-Canton, says the airport planning in northeast Ohio for the RNC demonstrates how effectively the area’s transportation assets can be brought together for major events. 

“So when we talk about being a second portal to the region, now you can really see how that plays out.  And that can be from either the corporate, or from the commercial side of the business.  We help each other, and create really a regional airport system. “

Gateway airports across the country
There are about 160 airports around the U.S. that can ‘clear in advance’ flights for landing in Washington D.C.— and, therefore, can enter the restricted airspace for the convention. 

But, there are more than 5,000 airports without those clearance capabilities where private and charter passenger flights could originate. That means there will be a lot of business for Akron-Canton and Youngstown-Warren Regional Airports as security gateways for the RNC.