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Airport clips wings on international travel by employees

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Trips to overseas destinations are conspicuously missing from a proposed travel schedule for Indianapolis Airport Authority employees for the remainder of this year.

Three trips proposed to conferences in Canada are the extent of foreign travel among the 79 proposed trips, according to a schedule set for consideration by the authority board on Friday.

IBJ reported March 10 that former IAA CEO John Clark and two top executives last year spent more than $67,000 on trips to conferences and business development destinations including Brazil, Denmark, Greece, Morocco and Switzerland.

The airport board’s new president, Mike Wells, said such trips raised concerns. After taking the post in December, Wells said he wanted to review all proposed travel before trips were taken.

The authority’s employees appear to have gotten the message.

“In aligning anticipated travel to current objectives, the listing was adjusted to 79 travel considerations from over 100,” states a memo by Robert Duncan, interim executive director of the airport, accompanying the list of proposed trips Wells will review.

Duncan, who had recently retired, was called back to take over for Clark, whose employment contract was not extended after it recently expired. 

Many of the trips on the airport’s proposed travel list involve conferences, professional training and pitches to potential new airport tenants. 

Among them are trips planned to talk with executives of Nippon Cargo Airlines in Chicago and airline Cathay Pacific in Los Angeles.

Airport officials are trying to land more passenger flights as well as grow air cargo. They’ve been successful in landing additional service by Cargolux, which flies to Indianapolis directly from Europe, and additional nonstop FedEx cargo flights from overseas. 

European aircraft refurbishment firm Comlux Aviation has been growing its operations in Indianapolis, as well.

The commercial passenger market has been difficult to grow, however. Carriers have been slashing the number of flights to max out aircraft utilization.

High fuel prices have also caused carriers to axe a number of nonstop flights to non-hub destinations that had been flown by regional jets that carry fewer passengers.

Also on Friday, the board is to consider a building lease as part of a previously announced 11.5-megawatt solar farm on 60 acres near the airport entrance.

ET Solutions, a joint venture that includes locally based Johnson-Melloh Solutions and Telamon Corp., expects to be operating the solar farm by year’s end.

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