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Airport anticipates return to pre-COVID numbers by end of July

MORGANTOWN — By all indications, 2020 was going to be a banner year for the Morgantown Municipal Airport.

It was coming off a somewhat resurgent 2019, in which enplanement numbers jumped by nearly 2,000 passengers over 2018’s 5,488.

Through the first couple months of 2020, Airport Director Jonathan Vrabel said MGW was on pace to surpass 10,000.

Then everything came to a screeching halt.

“The airline was doing well. We had more passengers flying than we’d ever had in the previous several years,” he said. “Our fuel sales were nice and strong. Corporate aviation was busy. Things were moving in the right direction. The economy seemed really strong. But when the pandemic hit, everything stopped.”

The result was an airport at a standstill, resulting in a 67% drop in operations for the year.

In the early months of the pandemic, Vrabel said airport staff traded their usual jobs for projects sprucing up the terminal or landscaping. Then, around mid-summer, the customers started returning, albeit slowly at first.

“The airline anticipates they will be back to pre-COVID levels around the end of July,” he said. “Corporate aviation is getting busier. We’re seeing that increase as well, but we’re still not to the level we were before the pandemic.”

In the meantime, work continues on the $40 million runway extension project.

In February, Morgantown City Council voted unanimously in support of a contract totaling $5,753,978.10 with Doss Enterprises for Phase 1 of the extension project, which will add 1,001 feet to the runway, bringing it to 6,200 feet.

“We’ve been blasting for about the last two weeks, getting the aggregate nice and loose so they can start moving it and getting it separated,” Vrabel said, noting phase 1 is expected to continue until early 2022.

It was previously explained that more than 4 million cubic yards of earth will need to be moved to support the extension. That dirt will come from the future site of a commerce park.

The extension project is expected to take five years to complete.

Around that time, Vrabel said, the airport will likely undergo a complete rebranding. While nothing has been decided, Morgantown Gateway Airport has been tossed around as the new name, which would align with the airport’s federal identifier, MGW.

Based on the number of flights, MGW is the busiest airport in the state, serving approximately 55,000 aircraft operations each year. Southern Airways Express has been the commercial carrier at the airport since 2016.

Anyone interested in following the runway project can do so at

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