Senior Interview Project Focuses on Erie Airport’s Operations, History, & Impact


In December 2023, Derek Martin, Executive Director of the Erie Regional Airport Authority (ERAA), sat down with a local high school student interested in aviation to answer her questions about Erie International Airport (ERI). 

Having overseen the daily operations of the airport since 2018, Martin agreed to the one-on-one Q & A which the student requested as part of her senior interview project for her economics class. Topics ranged from the airport’s history and operations to its impact on the community. 

Asked about the nature of the airport’s business, Martin stated that the Erie Regional Airport Authority is a Pennsylvania Municipal Corporation established in 1951, under the Pennsylvania Municipal Authorities Act No. 164.  As to what type of customers the airport serves and why they choose it, Martin explained that their customer base runs the gamut — including all income levels, ages, and other demographics, for both business and pleasure — and that they choose Erie airport over others because of the convenience, price, and nonstop flights. 

According to Martin, the airport’s main competition are terminals in Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Toronto; the main goal of the airport is to “connect people to the world;” and funding for the airport is generated from user fees as well as aviation ticket taxes while profits are used to defray the cost of airport capital projects. 

Regarding recent developments at the facility, Martin lamented the challenges of the global Covid-19 pandemic which ultimately resulted in the loss of air service. While he acknowledged that the future of the airport and other similar airports remains challenging due to overall obstacles within the aviation industry, such as a lack of flight crews, he cited attracting additional airlines and flights and relieving prices as top priorities. He also pointed to new air service such as American Airlines adding an additional daily flight connecting Erie and Charlotte, starting in April, as a recent success.       

“Derek always welcomes the opportunity to talk about the airport, its operations, and our continual efforts to ensure the airport’s success,” said Michelle Magee, Executive Assistant and Public Affairs/Media Coordinator for the ERAA. “Whether it’s a Q & A with a local student or a town hall with the community, being transparent and forthcoming about current challenges and plans for growth is extremely important as we move forward together following the pandemic and other recent economic hurdles.”

In his responses, Martin also shared details about himself, including those related to his experience and his journey to Erie airport. As a kid, he dreamed of becoming an NHL referee. He would go on to earn his Master of Business Administration from New York University School of Business and BA in Accounting St Mary’s University in Winona, MN. Prior to joining the ERAA, he worked for the largest Port Authority in the US — Port Authority NY & NJ — as well as for Detroit Metro, and for regional/commercial airports in Klamath Falls, OR, and Rockford, IL.

Focusing on the importance of efficient and effective airport operations, Martin credited working with his executive assistant, the CFO, director of HR, chief of public safety, and director of operations, among others.

When asked what life skills a high schooler should have when leaving high school, Martin answered, “The best life skill high schoolers should possess by the time they leave high school is adaptability. In my experience, I have seen individuals who have the ability to adjust to new conditions and environments be more successful than those who struggle with adjusting to things outside of their norm.”