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New hangar would serve entrepreneur

MIDDLEBURY — The town of Middlebury will soon receive an application for an approximately 14,000-square-foot hangar at the Middlebury State Airport that would house an airplane and helicopter to be used by one of the country’s most renowned entrepreneurs.
It is a project that, if permitted, would also produce a new amenity for pilots landing at the local airport: Instrument approach equipment that would facilitate safe approaches to the landing strip during inclement weather.
Heading up the project are Jim MacKay and Ben Marriott, both veterans of the U.S. military and experienced pilots of airplanes and helicopters. Under the banner of MIO Aviation, they are spearheading the project on behalf of part-time Addison County resident Martine Rothblatt, the creator of GeoStar and Sirius Satellite Radio and the founder/CEO of United Therapeutics. In 2004, she founded the Terasem Movement, which has a base in Bristol.
Because she is very active in the business world, the new hangar would provide a base from which to periodically whisk Rothblatt to destinations throughout the East Coast and into the Midwest. The helicopter would have a range of around 350 miles and would allow for landings on urban building helipads, Marriott noted. The airplane would have a range of around 1,800 miles, according to MacKay.
The MIO Aviation helicopter would not emit as much noise as the Army National Guard helicopters do during their sporadic training passes at the airport, according to MacKay.
MacKay stressed the hangar has nothing to do with a separate effort by the Vermont Agency of Transportation to make $3 million in improvements to the Middlebury airport runway and associated infrastructure. VTrans officials provided an update on that project on Tuesday, Dec. 1.
MIO Aviation will seek a land lease from the state of Vermont to build the hangar at a spot just north of an existing three-bay hangar on the same side of the runway as the terminal. Plans also include a jet fuel tank designated specifically for the MIO Aviation aircraft.
“We won’t be selling jet fuel,” MacKay said.
He added the terminal would be built at a scale and style that would fit in with the current structures and surroundings. The project will need local, state and federal permits.
“We are not here to build ‘LaGuardia north,’” MacKay said. “Our goal is to be good aviation partners and citizens.”
MacKay and Marriott said they have reached out to airport neighbors, who have expressed numerous concerns about VTrans’ proposed upgrades to the runway. One of those concerns has been that an expanded runway might usher in larger aircraft, with related noise and traffic.
Prem Prakash is one of the airport neighbors with whom MIO Aviation has met to discuss its hangar plans.
“My personal opinion is that the airport is part of our community and therefore I support any reasonable aeronautic and economic development that enhances the viability of the airport,” Prakash said. “My concern is that the airport remain a facility that is harmonious with the character of the neighborhood, and that it not be developed to a point where it becomes a detriment to the quality of life to the 600-or-so households in the area impacted by the airport.”
If all proceeds according to plan, MIO Aviation would begin the hangar permitting process later this winter, followed by an estimated three months of construction.
“We are looking at a possible September (2016) opening,” MacKay said.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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