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Wharram - news - Missionary operation fears limbo in airport changes (fwd)
From Bruce Wharram <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Missionary operation fears limbo in airport changes
Group uprooted by expansion; flights continue
By Patty Pensa
Staff Writer - South Florida Sun-Sentinel
July 3, 2005
Amid the private planes and corporate jets at Palm Beach International
Airport, a nonprofit group ferrying missionaries and supplies to the
Caribbean has called the airport home for 40 years.
But as the airport expands, officials at Missionary Flights International
worry there won't be room left for them. Most recently, the group had to
shuffle its operation and find a new landlord at the airport.
Missionary Flights moved out of its space at Galaxy Aviation last week and
plans to sign a five-year lease with the county. But the new space comes
without an office or room for maintenance work on the group's three DC-3
cargo planes, which can carry 24 people or about 7,000 pounds of cargo each.
"We're kind of in limbo," said Joe Karabensh, the group's vice president.
"We foresee the airport working with us."
In the meantime, Missionary Flights will continue flying to Haiti, the
Dominican Republic and the Bahamas, renting from another company.
Last year, airport officials chose Galaxy Aviation over Missionary Flights
to build on leased land at the airport. Airport officials have suggested the
group look to the North County or Pahokee airports for its future home,
Airport spokeswoman Lisa de la Rionda declined to comment on where
Missionary Flights might end up beyond its five-year lease. She said airport
officials are reviewing future plans at all the county airports.
"We've done everything we can to afford accommodations," de la Rionda said.
The shuffling began more than four years ago when Missionary Flights lost
its office space at Galaxy. The buildings the group used were old and had to
be torn down, said Mark Wantshouse, Galaxy chief operating officer.
Missionary Flights was moved to another building set to be torn down and
told it could only remain temporarily, Wantshouse said.
Other tenants that occupy more space, and therefore bring in more rent
money, were given priority.
"We told the missionary there was no space available," Wantshouse said. "It
certainly is somewhat of an impact on them."
Meanwhile, Missionary Flights is trying to get a temporary office approved
for its new space with the county. Its offices have been in Lake Worth for
four years. Passengers meet there before flights, which is inconvenient,
The county lease would not allow the group to park its planes overnight, and
maintenance cannot be done on its cargo ramp.
"This has taken a lot of time," Karabensh said of securing new space. "We'd
much rather use our time to serve the missions and the poor people in the
Caribbean. It's kind of frustrating to have to deal with all this but we
know it's a necessity to be able to maintain our operation."
The group averages four flights a week, bringing volunteers, supplies and
mail to the three countries.
Return flights require processing through U.S. Customs, which is why moving
to the North County or Pahokee airports would be problematic, Karabensh
Karabensh said he wants the group to stay at PBIA for the long term. The
airport initially offered a three-year contract before being persuaded to go
with five years, he said.
"We're trying to do everything we can to remain here at PBIA," Karabensh
Patty Pensa can be reached at email@example.com or 561-243-6609.
Copyright © 2005, South Florida Sun-Sentinel