Dignitaries called it a critical facility and an economic driver. Director Randy Hooper kept it simple by welcoming Del Norte County to “your airport.”

An endeavor that began 20 years ago and included the formation of the Border Coast Regional Airport Authority was a vision finally realized on Friday when members of the joint powers authority cut the ribbon on Jack McNamara Field’s new airport terminal. But one of the biggest surprises of the afternoon came from Contour CEO Matt Chaifetz.

Beginning May 15, Contour will add four more flights per week without using federal Alternate Essential Air Service (EAS) dollars, Chaifetz said.

If the number of boarded passengers per year the airline receives from Crescent City grew to 10,000, Contour would grant the Del Norte County Airport $1 million in improvement funds, Chaifetz said.

“You choosing to fly out of your hometown airport on your hometown airline provides dollars that will be invested into this community to provide further enhancements,” he said. “Whether it be in the form of infrastructure improvements. The airport submits how they want to use it, but that is a grant given to the airport if we hit 10,000 enplanements.”

Without the four extra flights per week, Contour is on track to receive about 8,300 boarded passengers per year, Chaifetz said. In August 2018, a few short months after its inaugural flight out of Crescent City last spring, Contour flights were 90 percent full, he said.

Before allowing Del Norte residents to tour the new terminal, David Finigan, the BCRA’s public member, gave a brief history on what it took for it to be realized. This includes challenges following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when the Del Norte Regional Airport was a county-operated facility and had to install fencing and a new building to meet more stringent security measures, he said. Another hurdle was the permitting and environmental review stages for then-airport director Jim Bernard and the newly-formed JPA to extend its runway safety area by its 2014 deadline, Finigan said.

After working with the Federal Aviation Administration to obtain funds for the runway safety area project and the new terminal, the BCRA hired Vanir Construction to manage the project.

“Vanir came to the rescue with architectural creativity and this is one of those architectural creativity marvels that they came up with,” Finigan said. “Because of the vision, the commitment, the compromise and the persistence, what they said would never happen, you get to enjoy today.”

Grand opening attendees also heard from Del Norte’s congressman, Jared Huffman, who pointed out that not only is the new terminal a critical facility for the North Coast, it’s also an important facility for Southern Oregon. Huffman noted that Southern Oregon’s Congressional representative, Peter DeFazio, is the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which is critical in maintaining the airport’s EAS funding.

“Every time there’s an FAA authorization battle back in Congress, Peter DeFazio and I have to go to battle to fight for that program and we have successfully kept it going,” Huffman said. “I want to promise you that we will be there to fight to preserve it into the future so that we will not only have a beautiful terminal, but we will have actual air service in this terminal going forward.”

Reach Jessica Cejnar at jcejnar@triplicate.com .