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Elite Airways expanding facilities, flights at Vero Beach Airport

Dec. 9, 2016 -

VERO BEACH — Elite Airways on Tuesday revealed plans for a major expansion at Vero Beach Regional Airport that could bring a maintenance hub and hundreds of jobs here.

Friday marks the first anniversary of Elite's service from Vero Beach, and it has become the airline's most successful market, President and CEO John Pearsall said.

Pearsall told the City Council on Tuesday he and airport Manager Eric Menger are discussing construction of a fleet-maintenance facility at the airport. Talks are preliminary, Pearsall said after the meeting, but construction of the hangar could begin as early as next summer. It would take two to three years to complete, and would provide hundreds of jobs, he said.  Some employees would come from out of state, but Elite also would hire locally, he said.  “We have a lot of work to do,” he said.

The airport has space available for an Elite hangar, which would be built to its specifications.

Elite launched in Vero Beach with nonstop flights to Newark, New Jersey, and has added nonstop routes to Naples, additional connections and flights. The airline began with twice-weekly flights to Newark, and has expanded to four days a week.  “It is a total home run,” Pearsall told the council.  Additional destinations from Vero Beach are to be announced Friday, he said.

The success of Vero Beach service was only one factor in considering a maintenance hub here, Pearsall said. The Vero Beach community’s response to Elite is the other, he said.  “The atmosphere in this town has been so warm and welcoming. We just like it,” Pearsall said.

Meanwhile, the City Council approved a three-year agreement allowing Elite to continue renting counter space at the airport. Elite pays $700 a month for the space, which allows passenger check-ins, according to city documents. The airport also collects about $8,400 in licensing fees each year from Elite.

Once the airport records its 10,000th passenger, the expanded lease agreement will increase federal grants from about $150,000 annually to about $1 million, city documents state.

“(Elite) has been a success from Day 1,” Menger told the council. “We look forward to better things to come.”

In addition to Vero Beach and Naples, Elite has flights from Orlando Melbourne International Airport. Pearsall said Elite plans to continue flights from Melbourne, which houses administrative offices and a maintenance facility.

By Colleen Wixon , colleen.wixon@tcpalm.com - 4:41 p.m. EST December 6, 2016

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