Sunday News Correspondent
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Norwegian airline eyes Pease for transatlantic flights
PORTSMOUTH - As a growing European airline considers offering flights across the pond to Portsmouth International Airport at Pease, the owner of an aircraft maintenance and repair company says he is being purposely pushed out of the way by leaders of the local development authority.
Markus Ebert, the president of Royal Technical Group based in Alamance, N.C., has been working with the Pease Development Authority to secure a lease of Hangar 227 on Aviation Avenue for eight months. Right now, his company's primary goal is to expand services to clients, and Ebert says he chose the hanger because it could fit his needs if he invests $10 million in it. If everything goes through as Ebert plans, he says he will be employing 500 people in the Seacoast region.
The problem is, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services and the Environmental Protection Agency have determined there is contamination to the soil, groundwater and indoor air at the hanger. PDA Executive Director David Mullen wrote Ebert on Dec. 2, stating they will not be able to meet the timetable for occupancy Ebert identified as critical to his operation. Mullen wrote the PDA will not expend any further staff time or financial resources until an optimal remedial design is identified by the Air Force and approved by regulators.
Ebert said he has spent $200,000 on legal and environmental firm fees, and assured PDA officials he would invest the money into removing contaminants.
"Right now, we're losing $1 million a week not being operational," Ebert said of his expected income from current and new clients. When he heard that Norwegian Air Shuttle is considering Portsmouth's airport for low-cost flights to Ireland, England, Scotland, Norway and possibly France, he expressed further frustration.
"What is interesting is most aviation experts will advise that having a full-service MRO at your airport increases the ability to attract commercial airline services," Ebert said. "I am offering them a golden opportunity to increase the likelihood of landing the Norwegian opportunity, and they are going out of their way to push me away."
Mullen explained on Wednesday that Ebert cannot clean up the site. It needs to be done by the Air Force. He said although having maintenance operations at the airport would be helpful, there is already a crew that can handle basic repairs, and the kind of work Ebert wants to offer would more likely be performed in Europe.
Norwegian will operate in upstate New York, and is deciding between Portsmouth and T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, R.I., for a second base. Mullen said having 18 international flights a week would boost the local economy.
"That would really put us on the map," Mullen said.
It could take up to a couple of months before Norwegian executives make a final decision.
This news has been published by title Aircraft Repair Firm Battles With EPA, DES Over Pease Lease
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