Joe Kerchinski mug


ST. MARYS — The St. Marys Municipal Airport remains open during the coronavirus pandemic for several reasons, including the transfer of powdered metal parts and transport of critically-ill patients.

SMMA Manager Joe Kerchinski said the bar and dining room at West Wind Restaurant have been closed, though it is still open Tuesday through Saturday for takeout orders.

SMMA also implemented a new policy for transit pilots, who used to be allowed to relax in the lounge throughout the day. Now, they can come in and use the restrooms, which are sanitized three or four times per day, Kerchinski said. Any credit cards accepted from the pilots are also sanitized.

The airport must remain open for several crucial reasons, Kerchinski said, one of them being the increase in the number of flights coming in to take powdered metal parts from area factories, he said.

“There are some major dollars being spent transporting these parts,” he said. “There is a manufacturing need making these ventilators and other pieces of equipment. We make so many parts in this area, and some plants are bringing their deliveries out here.”

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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) works to keep general aviation airports up-to-date and upgraded, Kerchinski said.

“One of the main reasons for that is, if we ever had a pandemic, we can land C-130s here to get hospital supplies out to local people,” he said.

Kerchinski added that SMMA is one of the only nearby places that sells jet A jet fuel, which STATMedEvac need to be able to come to the area.

“Fixed-wheel aircraft come in here and transport critically-ill patients,” he said. “It’s important for people to understand why these airports are critical.”

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