Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Reading Regional Airport/Carl A Spaatz Field (KRDG), Pennsylvania: 2 firms eye hangars

Reading Regional Airport has two firms looking at potential hangar sites on the airfield – the newest of them to house corporate jets and the other a huge firm still interested in bringing hundreds of jobs to refurbish airliners.

Both have been looking at the site of the historic Hangar 501, built in World War II and razed in 2008, but also at other sites on the airfield.

And both would benefit from the state’s move last week to eliminate the sales tax on repair and maintenance of fixed-wing aircraft.

Airport manager Terry P. Sroka said that could bring many new jobs to the state.

The newest developer, an unnamed utility, wants to build a hangar for three large corporate jets at the Hangar 501 site for which the airport has a $600,000 state grant for site improvements.

The other, announced a year ago, is a still-unnamed major player in the airliner maintenance, repair and overhaul industry, and is still interested in Reading Regional.

The company was back in town a month ago, talking to county officials about the site, said Michael A. Setley, airport authority chairman.

He said the airport is one of several sites it’s considering.

The airport said last year that the firm is based in the Southwest and wants to expand by creating a major overhaul facility in the East.

It did not said how many jobs it might bring, but aviation officials said overhauling full-size airliners would require several hundred highly skilled workers.

To accommodate it, airport engineers drew up a plan for a 300-by-300-foot hangar – twice the size of the old Hangar 501 – on that site.

With the new interest, the airport is now considering two smaller hangars there, each about 150 by 150 feet, the first for the utility and the second site reserved for a future firm.

But that would produce about half the leasable space that the larger hangar would.

“I look at it this way: It’s not as large as what we dreamed, but it’s larger than what’s there now,” Setley said. “It’s a bird in the hand.”

Besides, he and Sroka said, that site wasn’t the larger firm’s first choice anyway, and it could build the big hangar at several other airfield sites.

One of those is in a free-trade zone, allowing the firm to bring in planes from Canada, work on them and ship them back without import duties or red tape, and now, without sales tax.

Dropping the 6 percent sales tax can add that same 6 percent to a company’s bottom line, said airport engineer Fran Strouse of the Harrisburg-based L.R. Kimball engineering firm.

Several years ago, the state eliminated similar taxes on helicopters, bringing numerous helicopter firms and jobs to the state.

The Aviation Council of Pennsylvania lauded the most recent move.

“The (state’s) newly revised tax policy provides the foundation for the creation of new, private-sector, family sustaining jobs in the fixed-wing industry,” the council said in a statement last week.


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