the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport (PHF) has struggled since 2012 to attract and retain a low-cost carrier to replace AirTran
Source: ESRI, ArcGIS Online
When Southwest Airlines purchased its rival low-cost carrier AirTran in 2011, AirTran was flying out of both the Richmond International Airport (RIC) and the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport (PHF). Southwest flew out of Norfolk International Airport (ORF).
In 2012, Southwest chose to focus on the airports in Richmond and Norfolk. On March 9, 2013 it ended service at the Newport News airport located between the other two. Loss of the low-cost carrier reduced traffic at Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport (PHF) significantly, since 450,000 of the 1,000,000 passengers using that airport had been flying on AirTran.1
Attracting a new low-cost carrier to replace AirTran at Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport (PHF) appeared essential for generating passenger traffic, which was the primary measure of success for airport officials. They quickly recruited Allegiant Air to offer flights to Orlando.
Allegiant Air provided seasonal service, October-August, from 2012-2014. That carrier shifted its base to Richmond when Newport News recruited a competing low-cost airline, PeoplExpress.2
The ability of PeoplExpress to survive was questioned before it started flying, using planes owned by Vision Airlines. One skeptical report noted that PeoplExpress had:3
Another observer highlighted how Newport News lacked the customer base to fill 158-seat 737-400 aircraft:4
In 2012, aviation consultants interviewed Brent James, the vice president of operations for PeoplExpress, regarding plans to start flying. He noted that PeoplExpress would operate direct flights, rather than create a hub-and-spoke operations. Direct flights to Pittsburgh would allow customers in southeastern Virginia to avoid transfers and delays :5
Aspire Aviation thought the start-up airline had a chance to succeed. The challenge was to attract the same customers that AirTran had served. Southwest bought AirTran and expected to get those customers to fly out of Norfolk or Richmond. If PeoplExpress could offer better and cheaper service, pssenger traffic at the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport (PHF) might climb back to its previous levels.
Aspire Aviation concluded:6
Three months after starting with two planes, PeoplExpress announced it was suspending operations for three weeks. Both of its two leased Boeing 737's were unavailable. One was damaged by a truck while on the ground at Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport, and the other had separate maintenance issues.
even into January 2015, PeoplExpress advertised flights based out of Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport
After the airline failed to renew operations within 30 days, the airport commission demanded that PeoplExpress vacate the terminal and turn over $96,000 in airport fees collected from passengers. In January 2015, the airport evicted PeoplExpress from its office at the airport. The airline was not suppose to pay rent, but it was evicted for failure to pay its bills for utilities and trash service.
The airport claimed it operated at a profit despite the loss of the carrier, and the extra costs to support PeoplExpress generated about as much extra revenue. The airport's Executive Director said $739,000 of a U.S. Department of Transportation grant was transferred to the airline during its short life at Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport (PHF). He stated that $650,000 in local Regional Air Service Enhancement Committee (RAISE) funds, contributed by Newport News, Hampton, James City County, York County, Gloucester, Williamsburg and Poquoson to increase business at the region's airport, had not been used to subsidize PeoplExpress.
After the loss of PeoplExpress, the Peninsula Airport Commission gave the airport's executive director a raise.7
In 2017, a dramatically different story emerged.
The Peninsula Airport Commission had guaranteed a $5 million loan made by TowneBank loan to the airline, a commitment made in a closed session on June 9, 2014 and in advance of the bank even finalizing the deal with PeoplExpress. The bank required the guarantee because start-up costs put the airline deep in debt, and there were not sufficient assets to attach if the loan was not repaid. Public notice regarding the commitment was obscured purposefully when the Peninsula Airport Commission, after the closed session, authorized its chair:8
The attorney for the Peninsula Airport Commission advised that the procedure to protect the bank's loan was legal. That attorney was also a director of TowneBank, but claimed he had no conflict of interest.
PeoplExpress withdrew $4.5 million of the $5 million guarantee before shutting down after just three months of operation. Final auditing revealed that the Peninsula Airport Commission used $3.55 million in grants provided by the Virginia Department of Aviation for capital improvements, not for business incentives or marketing.
An additional $983,000 came from airport revenue. The Federal Aviation Administration concluded that the diversion of that funding, to guarantee a loan to PeoplExpress, was not legitimate. The Federal agency did not block award of future grants to the airport, but it made clear that the airport had to take corrective actions. The Federal Aviation Administration notified the commission:9
PeoplExpress used a different color scheme in 2014 than the previous airline with the same name that was merged into Continental in 1987
Source: World Airline News, The new PEOPLExpress wants to start flying to Newark before July 1
The requirement that that the Peninsula Airport Commission must repay $4.5 million to TowneBank was not disclosed publicly except in a footnote buried in an audit, which was completed a year late. No discussion of the repayment was recorded in the minutes of the Peninsula Airport Commission meetings.
The guaranteed loan story, and the airport's mechanism of paying $4.5 million to TowneBank, emerged only after over two years of persistent research by the local newspaper, the Daily Press.
The story started when the airport forced the closure of the Blue Sky Cafe operating inside the terminal. The owner had invested heavily to convert a former Burger King into the cafe in 2003, but in 2016 the Peninsula Airport Commission decided to cancel his lease and open its own restaurant. The cafe owner filed a Freedom of Information Act request for documents related to the PeoplExpress loan.
The Daily Press recognized the story's ptential, and doggedly pursued its own investigation. The newspaper publicized how the Peninsula Airport Commission had guaranteed and repaid the PeoplExpress loan, including the fact that the repayment ensured that TowneBank made a $115,625 profit on its $5 million loan.
The Peninsula Airport Commission ultimately revised its 2014 financial report to show a $11 million loss in 2014, which was followed by a $7 million loss in 2015 and another $7 million loss in 2016. In response to a later Freedom of Information Act request for documents regarding the loan guarantee, the commission reported in 2017 that it had no written records regarding its authorization for the commission chair to sign the loan guarantee and had no documents accounting for how PeoplExpress used the money.
The secrecy regarding the repayment and accusations of inappropriate behavior by the Peninsula Airport Commission caused the James City County Economic Development Authority, York County, and the City of Hampton to freeze their scheduled contributions to the Regional Air Service Enhancement Committee (RAISE), and that group later disbanded. The Virginia Secretary of Transportation decided to provide only half of the Virginia Department of Aviation's annual $2 million payment, placing the rest into an escrow account until the state recouped its $3.5 million.
The state had expected its annual payments to be used for capital improvements, not to subsidize operations. The state's manual regarding use of grant funding states "Operational costs are not eligible under any state funding program," but the Peninsula Airport Commission claimed it used the funding for "air service development."
In the airport's $8 million of annual operational costs, there was little opportunity to generate enough savings to repay the state and obtain release of the funds held in escrow. The other opportunity presented to the Peninsula Airport Commission was to raise an equal amount from other sources for capital improvements. The Secretary of Transportation did agreed to release the funds in escrow as a match for new capital improvements.
The General Assembly responded in 2017 to the loose use of state aviation funding by clarifying the legitimate uses for grants made to airports. It added language in the Code of Virginia to exclude direct or indirect support of the operation of an airline through grants, credit enhancements or other means.10
The Virginia Secretary of Transportation had been a businessman in Hampton Roads, understood that business deals involve risks, and recognized that not every deal is a winner. However, he was clearly surprised and angered by the way the Peninsula Airport Commission used state funds and obscured their financial dealing with PeoplExpress and TowneBank. He commented regarding the commission's justifications:11
While the state audited the airport's operations, the Peninsula Airport Commission suspended the airport director and fired its attorney. That lawyer, along with his father before him, had represented the airport for 60 years.
The city manager of Newport News resigned from the commission and also from his job with the city. The commission, which consisted of four members appointed by the Newport News city council and two appointed by the Hampton city council, also decided to add voting members from Williamsburg, James City and York County. That expansion occurred in 2018, after approval by the city councils of Newport News and Hampton.12
by May 2017, all of the members who had approved the PeoplExpress deal had left the Peninsula Airport Commission
Source: Peninsula Airport Commission, Airport Commission & Staff
The state reported its initial audit findings in May, 2017. By that time, all Peninsula Airport Commission members who had approved the PeoplExpress deal had been replaced. The one member who abstained from the vote continued to serve until 2018, after resolution of the financial and political disputes triggered by the PeoplExpress deal.
The commission fired its Executive Director "for cause" after hearing the audit report. The audit revealed he had approved unauthorized expenses for his personal benefit, above and beyond his annual $223,939 salary plus $810/month car allowance. That gave the commission the opportunity to replace the Executive Director without paying severance, and without citing the PeoplExpress debacle.
In the process, the fired Executive Director was accused of shredding documents inappropriately. He sued various people at the airport and on the Peninsula Airport Commission, plus the Daily News newpaper for defamation, claiming the charge had shattered his reputation.
Ultimately, all defendents were released from the case except the Peninsula Airport Commission. The Executive Director won the defamation lawsuit. In 2019 the insurance company for the Peninsula Airport Commission settled the case for $300,000, to avoid the risks associated with having the case go to trial.13
The former airport director was indicted in 2019 for Federal financial crimes. The 24 charges included misuse of public money, money laundering, and obstruction of justice for providing false information to the Federal Aviation Administration. Testimony in the civil lawsuit came back to haunt the Executive Director, after he shared it with law enforcement agents to deter them from arresting him. The testimony in the civil lawsuit for defamation was used to file new charges of perjury and obstruction of justice against the Executive Director.
In his trial, he tried to claim that he was the scapegoat and simply implemented direction given to him by the Peninsula Airport Commission. In 2020, he was convicted of 23 of the 24 felony charges against him. He was sentenced to four years of probation and ordered to reimburse the airport $2.5 million. The judge required him to pay $300 per month, so it would require almost 700 years to pay the full $2.5 million.
The founder of PeoplExpress was negotiated a plea deal in 2019 before the trial of the airport's Executive Director. The airline's founder pled guilty to two felony fraud charges, wire fraud and failing to file a tax return. In 2020, he was sentenced to two years in prison.14
the Peninsula Airport Commission suspended and then fired its Executive Director over the PeoplExpress debacle
Source: Peninsula Airport Commission, Airport Commission & Staff
In July, 2017, further analysis revealed that PeoplExpress owed over $200,000, rather than $96,000, to the airport for Passenger Facility Charges that it had collected. Later, audit results clarified that the airport had billed $115,000, but the airline owed $227,000 for the fees it had collected from passengers.
The Executive Director had also understated the other bills that the airline had not paid for utilities and other charges. When PeoplExpress stopped paying its bills, he publicly reported the debts were $18,000. Later accounting calculated them to exceed $50,000.15
The airline had no assets. Those debts, like the $4.5 million loan, were uncollectable from PeoplExpress.
In response to the audit, the Newport News' director of economic development acknowledged that $700,000 in local RAISE funding was not used to match a $950,000 Small Community Air Service Development grant from the US Department of Transportation to meet specific performance objectives. The airport's Executive Director had sought a $2 million Federal grant, and promised a $1.6 million match from local sources. He never asked the local Regional Air Service Enhancement (RAISE) Committee to generate additional funding for the match, but did use RAISE funds as collateral security to guarantee the TowneBank loan.
The Newport News' director of economic development commented later about the use of local funds:16
The new members of the Peninsula Airport Commission managed to "claw back" from Towne Bank at least a portion of the $5 million loan. At the end of 2017, the involved parties - the Secretary of Transportation, the Peninsula Airport Commission, Towne Bank, and the law firm of the attorney who had advised the commission in 2014 that the loan was appropriate - reached a deal.
TowneBank and the law firm of Jones Blechman, Woltz & Kelly committed to reimburse the Peninsula Airport Commission $2 million in order to settle the dispute. The commission got a $1.65 million check, plus a $350,000 reduction of interest on an airport bond.17
the Peninsula Airport Commission's ad for a new Executive Director emphasized collaborative work to obtain funding
Source: Peninsula Airport Commission, Peninsula Airport Commission Executive Director Position (July 2017)
A new airport director arrived in November, 2017. The Virginia Secretary of Transportation called him within two days. He indicated satisfaction with the corrective actions by the Peninsula Airport Commission, after previous grants for capital improvements had been used inappropriately as collateral for the Towne Bank loan. By the following February, the state agreed to release $2 million in funding that had been frozen until the problems were "fixed."
The new airport director focused first on getting the existing carriers, American and Delta, to expand their flights from Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport (PHF). He noted the obvious challenge in attracting customers to an airport located between Richmond and Norfolk, without a large and unique catchment area:18
The new airport director had to operate without any funding from a Regional Air Service Enhancement (RAISE) Committee. The local governments which had subsidized outeach efforts to attract PeoplExpress disbanded that committee, after learning how their money had been squandered on the loan guarantee.19
He did get good news about a new carrier at the airport to replace PeoplExpress and its precessor, AirTran. Elite Airways announced plans to start flying to Long Island and New Jersey in March, 2017, but then suspended its commitment after revelation of the Peninsula Airport Commission's financial irregularities.
In January, 2018, Elite Airways committed to start operations in April, 2018. By then its routing plans had changed, and it proposed to start with flights going south to Myrtle Beach rather than north to the New York area. Plans changed, however, and the start of operations was cancelled in March. The airline determined that there was inadequate demand for the Newport News-Myrtle Beach city pair. The director of marketing for the airport noted:20
Elite Airways proposed to start flights in 2018 to Myrtle Beach, rather than Long Island/New Jersey as planned in 2017, but failed to start any flights
Source: Elite Airways (February, 2018)
The Peninsula Airport Commission's plans to attract a low-fare carrier and maximize revenue from the projected additional traffic led to the closure of the Blue Sky Cafe at the airport. The cafe owner's other restaurant in Hampton was the last casualty of the failed effort to launch flights by PeoplExpress from Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport (PHF).
The owner of the Blue Sky Cafe claimed in 2018 that the airport owed him $815,000 for the capital costs to convert the airport Burger King into the cafe, but the Peninsula Airport Commission contested the amount and refused to pay anything.
To maintain cash flow for his other restaurant in Hampton, the restaurant owner stopped paying the local meals tax that it collected from customers (7.5% of the bill) to the city. Hampton officials finally padlocked the restaurant for the failure to pay its taxes. The Commissioner of the Revenue for the city commented:21
In contrast, the Peninsula Airport Commission had the ability to use public funds to support its operations. It used revenues from leases of public property and flight operations to pay its bills for the airport's legal fight with the restaurant owner.
1. "AirTran to end flights from Newport News in 2012," The Virginian-Pilot, August 2, 2011, https://pilotonline.com/news/local/transportation/airtran-to-end-flights-from-newport-news-in/article_68b8bd19-e538-51ad-a7c2-b43ea76328a0.html; "Experts: AirTran loss not insurmountable for airport," The Daily Press, August 7, 2011, http://articles.dailypress.com/2011-08-07/business/dp-nws-cp-airtran-impact-20110807_1_ken-spirito-airtran-departure-airtran-loss
(last checked July 26, 2017)
2. "UPDATE: Allegiant Air coming to Newport News airport," Newport News Daily Press, August 18, 2011, http://www.dailypress.com/business/dp-nws-new-airline-0818-20110817,0,2370684.story; "Allegiant Air pulling out of Newport News-Williamsburg Airport," WVEC-TV, June 4, 2014, http://www.wvec.com/my-city/nnews/Allegiant-Air-pulling-out-of-Newport-News-Williamsburg-Airport-261803241.html; "Allegiant Air to start Richmond-St. Petersburg, Fla., service in February," Richmond Times-Dispatch, November 12, 2014, http://www.timesdispatch.com/business/local/allegiant-air-to-start-richmond-st-petersburg-fla-service-in/article_588f565b-d193-54a2-94aa-6aaefde7a5b0.html (last checked November 12, 2014)
3. "Why the new People Express could be an express flop," The Business Journals, July 3, 2014, https://www.bizjournals.com/bizjournals/blog/seat2B/2014/07/why-the-new-people-express-could-be-an-express.html (last checked September 29, 2017)
4. "Who the F*&@ is PEOPLExpress?," Cranky Flier, February 20, 2012, http://crankyflier.com/2012/02/20/who-the-f-is-peoplexpress/ (last checked September 29, 2017)
5. "Interview: PEOPLExpress VP of Operations Brent James," Aspire Aviation, February 21, 2012, http://www.aspireaviation.com/2012/02/21/interview-peoplexpress-vp-of-operations-brent-james/ (last checked September 29, 2017)
6. "Interview: PEOPLExpress VP of Operations Brent James," Aspire Aviation, February 21, 2012, http://www.aspireaviation.com/2012/02/21/interview-peoplexpress-vp-of-operations-brent-james/ (last checked September 29, 2017)
7. "Allegiant Airlines problems won't affect Newport News airport due to fall hiatus," Daily Press (Newport News), September 25, 2013, http://touch.dailypress.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-77550424/; "People Express airline faces hurdles, seeks federal approval," Daily Press (Newport News), April 2, 2012, http://www.dailypress.com/news/traffic/dp-nws-people-express-certification-20120402,0,418594.story; "PeoplExpress launches with low fares, empty seats," The Virginian-Pilot, July 1, 2014, http://hamptonroads.com/node/721200; "Why the new People Express could be an express flop," Washington Business Journal, July 3, 2014, http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/news/news-wire/2014/07/03/why-the-new-people-express-could-be-an-express.html; "PeoplExpress suspends service, to relaunch Oct. 16," The Virginian-Pilot, September 27, 2014, http://hamptonroads.com/node/730182; "People Express told to leave Newport News/Williamsburg airport terminal," Daily Press (Newport News), November 10, 2014, http://www.dailypress.com/news/newport-news/dp-nws-people-express-20141110-36-story.html; "Newport News airport evicts People Express," Daily Press (Newport News), January 22, 2015, http://www.dailypress.com/business/dp-airlines-newport-news-airport-evicting-people-express-20150122-story.html; "Newport News/Williamsburg airport: People Express a financial wash for airport," Daily Press (Newport News), March 27, 2015, http://www.dailypress.com/business/tidewater/dp-newport-newswilliamsburg-airport-people-express-a-financial-wash-for-airport-20150326-story.html (last checked March 26, 2015)
8. "Jury finds former Newport News airport executive director guilty of 23 federal charges," Daily Press, March 10, 2020, https://www.dailypress.com/news/crime/dp-nw-airport-spirito-verdict-20200310-wp675d22kbfwjlb6syqdcgjqee-story.html (last checked March 11, 2020)
9. "Airport responds to Federal Aviation Administration inquiry," Daily Press, February 22, 2018, http://www.dailypress.com/business/tidewater/dp-nws-newport-news-airport-faa-response-20180222-story.html (last checked February 23, 2018)
10. "General Assembly moves airport reforms in response to People Express," Daily Press, February 7, 2017, http://www.dailypress.com/news/politics/dp-nws-ga-sidebar-people-express-20170207-story.html; "James City freezing air service fund payments, York may follow," Virginia Gazette, February 10, 2017, http://www.vagazette.com/news/dp-nws-people-express-jcc-concern-20170210-story.html; "Peninsula Airport Commission: No written records on People Express use of loan," Daily Press, February 21, 2017, http://www.dailypress.com/news/newport-news/dp-nws-airport-no-records-people-express-20170221-story.html; "Hampton, citing People Express loan, cuts support for Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport," Daily Press, February 22, 2017, http://www.dailypress.com/news/newport-news/dp-nws-airport-meeting-20170222-story.html; "TowneBank got money back and more on People Express loan," Daily Press, August 16, 2017, http://www.dailypress.com/news/airport/dp-nws-newport-news-airport-townebank-earnings-20170816-story.html; "Limited state funds begin to flow to Newport News airport," Daily Press, September 27, 2017, http://www.dailypress.com/news/airport/dp-nws-newport-news-airport-update-0920-story.html (last checked September 29, 2017)
11. "Peninsula Airport Commission pays off $4.5M People Express loan from TowneBank," Daily Press, January 25, 2017, http://www.dailypress.com/news/politics/dp-nws-people-express-loan-20170125-story.html; "Peninsula Airport Commission secrecy, loan decision questioned," Daily Press, January 26, 2017, http://www.dailypress.com/news/politics/dp-nws-airport--loan-guarantee-followup-20170126-story.html; "State cuts funding to Newport News airport after reports it paid off failed airline's $4.5 million loan," The Virginian-Pilot, January 28, 2017, http://pilotonline.com/news/local/transportation/state-cuts-funding-to-newport-news-airport-after-reports-it/article_a908838e-b968-5abf-ad7b-86c499af1af8.html; "People Express bills mount higher," Daily Press, January 28, 2017, http://www.dailypress.com/news/newport-news/dp-nws-airport-people-express-misuse-funds-20170128-story.html; "Airport commission says it did not violate policy on using state funding; Va.'s top transportation official disagrees," Daily Press, January 31, 2017, http://www.dailypress.com/news/newport-news/dp-airport-commission-special-meeting-newport-news-story.html (last checked February 2, 2017)
12. "Historic Triangle moves closer to Peninsula Airport Commission membership," Virginia Gazette, February 3, 2018, http://www.vagazette.com/news/va-vg-james-city-williamsburg-0203-story.html (last checked February 16, 2018)
13. "Job 1 at Newport News/Williamsburg airport: Restore public trust," Daily Press, March 11, 2017, http://www.dailypress.com/news/newport-news/dp-nws-airport-fresh-start-20170311-story.html; "Judge tells Peninsula Airport Commission to find lawyer - and soon," Daily Press, March 16, 2017, http://www.dailypress.com/news/newport-news/dp-nws-airport-lawyer-20170315-story.html; "Airport Commission fires executive director," Daily Press, May 15, 2017, http://www.dailypress.com/news/newport-news/dp-airport-commission-fires-executive-director-20170515-story.html; "Mallon resigns from Newport News airport board; Jay Joseph to take his place," Daily Press, February 16, 2018, http://www.dailypress.com/business/tidewater/dp-nws-airport-mallon-20180214-story.html; "Peninsula Airport settles lawsuit - Former executive director given $300,000 to end defamation case, avoid a jury trial," Daily Press, April 11, 2019, https://www.dailypress.com/news/newport-news/dp-nws-airport-settlement-20190410-story.html (last checked April 10, 2019)
14. "Ex-director of Newport News airport arrested on federal charges in airline scandal," The Virginian-Pilot, May 20, 2019, https://pilotonline.com/news/local/crime/article_a76dac26-7b20-11e9-875c-9fc46f520288.html; "Airline Founder Is Hit With Fraud Indictment - Feds: People Express Execs Profited As Business Foundered," Daily Press, May 22, 2019, https://www.dailypress.com/news/airport/dp-nws-newport-news-airport-ceo-indicted-20190521-story.html; "People Express founder pleads guilty to fraud," Daily Press, July 26, 2019, https://www.dailypress.com/news/newport-news/dp-nws-people-express-plea-20190725-story.html; "Judge refuses to toss out corruption charges against former Newport News airport director," Daily Press, January 17, 2020, https://www.dailypress.com/news/crime/dp-nw-airport-spirito-denued-20200117-bi4ngv6gtfbdzfes5m6td3cjz4-story.html; "Former People Express executive sentenced to 2 years in federal fraud case," Daily Press, February 20, 2020, https://www.dailypress.com/news/crime/dp-nw-airport-fraud-morisi-20200221-nzhiz2t2wrcd7hes5bsypvjktq-story.html; "Airport director’s statements in civil lawsuit led to perjury, obstruction charges in criminal case," The Virginian-Pilot, March 8, 2020, https://www.pilotonline.com/news/crime/dp-nw-spirito-trial-agents-20200309-73dsvvdh45hbxlvztcdy7qrmxe-story.html; "Jury finds former Newport News airport executive director guilty of 23 federal charges," Daily Press, March 10, 2020, https://www.dailypress.com/news/crime/dp-nw-airport-spirito-verdict-20200310-wp675d22kbfwjlb6syqdcgjqee-story.html; "Ex-Newport News airport chief Ken Spirito gets four years of probation, is ordered to pay $2.5M," Daily Press, July 15, 2020, https://www.dailypress.com/news/crime/dp-nw-spirito-probation-20200715-cxrpxpvkojgzrgqdypxksdkwqy-story.html (last checked July 16, 2020)
15. "People Express owed Newport News airport twice what had been reported," Daily Press, July 28, 2017, http://www.dailypress.com/news/newport-news/dp-nws-newport-news-airport-fees-20170728-story.html; "Airport responds to Federal Aviation Administration inquiry," Daily Press, February 22, 2018, http://www.dailypress.com/business/tidewater/dp-nws-newport-news-airport-faa-response-20180222-story.html (last checked February 23, 2018)
16. "Were localities in the dark about People Express loan?", Daily Press, June 17, 2017, http://www.dailypress.com/news/airport/dp-nws-newport-news-airport-raise-committee-20170614-story.html; "Airport promised, but never asked for, big local support for federal grant," Daily Press, July 23, 2017, http://www.dailypress.com/news/airport/dp-nws-newport-news-airport-grant-application-20170720-story.html (last checked July 25, 2017)
17. "Bank, law firm to pay airport $2 million to settle dispute over People Express loan," Daily Press, December 21, 2017, http://www.dailypress.com/news/dp-nws-newport-news-airport-20171220-story.html; "Layne: Settlement on People Express loan clears air for airport," Daily Press, December 21, 2017, http://www.dailypress.com/news/airport/dp-nws-newport-news-airport-settlement-recap-20171221-story.html (last checked January 19, 2018)
18. "New Newport News airport director wants to 'put airport back on the map'," Daily Press, February 25, 2018, (last checked February 26, 2018)
19. "Newport News' $5 million secret: Officials worked to keep airline loan private, witness says," Daily Press, February 29, 2020, https://www.dailypress.com/news/crime/dp-nw-federal-trial-spirito-20200229-i4aiq3wtyzacrek3cjqgbd2thm-story.html (last checked March 2, 2020)
20. "Elite Airways postpones its March launch at Newport News/Williamsburg airport," The Virginian-Pilot, January 30, 2017, https://pilotonline.com/business/elite-airways-postpones-its-march-launch-at-newport-news-williamsburg/article_10415564-763f-5f77-b77d-87287dd3fd43.html, "Flights between Newport News and Myrtle Beach, S.C. start April 6," The Virginian-Pilot, January 17, 2018, https://pilotonline.com/business/consumer/article_62267216-fc00-51c2-af95-96eba5a169a6.html; "Airline cancels flights to Myrtle Beach from Newport News/ Williamsburg," Williamsburg-Yorktown Daily, March 12, 2018, https://wydaily.com/story/2018/03/12/airline-cancels-flights-to-myrtle-beach-from-newport-news-williamsburg/ (last checked April 9, 2018)
21. "He blew the whistle on Newport News airport scandal - and says it could cost him his business," The Daily Press, December 26, 2018, https://www.dailypress.com/news/newport-news/dp-nws-evg-airport-restaurant-owner-20181214-story.html (last checked December 31, 2018)