County Transportation Director Aaron Watson announces Nov. 15, 2012 that Frontier Airlines will add four new flights to its schedule of service at Trenton-Mercer Airport. (Staff photo by Diccon Hyatt)

Superstorm Sandy’s winds blew off part of a hangar roof at Trenton-Mercer Airport, and the terminal now reads “Renton Mercer” due to a missing “T” that fell off during the storm and is nowhere to be found.

But some good news blew in last month, too, when Denver-based Frontier Airlines announced it was basing a 138-seat plane at Trenton-Mercer and beginning regular nonstop service to New Orleans, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Fort Myers, Fla., and Tampa.

An Airbus A319 in Frontier livery, with a howling wolf painted on the tail, served as a backdrop for the announcement Nov. 15. The Trenton-Mercer airport was built to serve such large jet planes, but the airport had been without regular commercial flights of any kind for years at a time and had never before been home to a plane with the carrying capacity of Frontier’s jet.

Most recently, Streamline Air found some success with small commuter flights to Boston, but was forced out of business in September when they could no longer charter their aircraft.

Frontier’s new routes will join its Trenton-to-Orlando flight. In total, there will be two departures a day from the airport.

Daniel Shurz, Vice President of Frontier’s commercial division, said the Trenton market was unique because it was a small airport at a large population center. He said he hoped the airline would prove popular with travelers due to its convenience.

“If the plane is scheduled to leave at five o’clock, it will be in the air at five-past-five,” he said. “Don’t try that in Philadelphia.”

Shurz said the airport would lure Internet ticket buyers with low prices.

County officials welcomed the announcement.

“This is probably one of the greatest days in Mercer County in recent years,” said freeholder Pat Colavita Jr.

Colavita said the airline had made a presentation to the Freeholder board to ask permission to fly from the airport, and had impressed everyone.

“They made a very convincing case,” he said.

Earlier this year, Freeholder Lucylle Walter was not alone in expressing skepticism that Frontier would be able to maintain its foothold at Trenton-Mercer when so many other airlines had failed in the past. At least 13 airlines have provided service at Trenton-Mercer since 1985.

Shurz said Frontier’s strategy of flying big planes would enable them to have competitive fares and attract travelers who would otherwise fly from Philadelphia or Newark. Florida is one of the most popular travel destinations in the country, he said.

County Transportation Director Aaron Watson, speaking on behalf of County Executive Brian Hughes, said the new flights would be a boost to the county’s economy.

Also at the press conference, Shurz gave a check for $10,000 to Mary Gay Abbott Young, director of the Rescue Mission of Trenton. The Rescue Mission was severely damaged by the storm, but stayed open to give shelter to its clients, with the help of the government and other nonprofit groups.

Airport manager Melinda Montgomery has seen busy times as well as slow times in her 14 years as manager, and looks forward to the terminal bustling with passengers.

“It will be a good busy,” she said. “A very welcome busy.”

Montgomery hopes to have all the I’s dotted and T’s crossed when flights begin at the end of January. But she has that covered. A new “T” is on order.

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Diccon Hyatt is business editor of U.S. 1. He has worked for Community News since 2006 and was previously community editor of the Ewing Observer, the Hopewell Express, the Lawrence Gazette, and the Trenton Downtowner. From 2003 to 2006, he was a general assignment reporter for the Middletown Transcript in Middletown, Delaware. In 2002, he graduated from the University of Delaware, where he was features editor of the student newspaper, The Review. He has won numerous awards from the Maryland-Delaware D.C. Press Association and the Association of Free Community Newspapers for features, news, and opinion writing. He is married and lives in Marlton, NJ.