Thursday, July 18, 2013

Bringing air shows back to airport probably won't fly: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International (KAVP), Pennsylvania

PITTSTON TWP. - Lackawanna County Commissioner Corey O'Brien wants Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport to once again host air shows, but the idea appears to be a long shot for now.

The air show drew large crowds between 1983 and 2000, when it was suspended for construction of the new terminal and never returned.

Now, there are many logistical problems with bringing the air show back, Airport Director Barry Centini told the Bi-County Airport Board during a Thursday meeting that included approvals of about $1.46 million worth of work.

The facility has changed significantly since the new terminal was built, and Mr. Centini said there is less parking available, meaning "we would need a lot of busing."

The local issues might be minor, however, compared to problems with the broader air show business climate.

"I hate to say it, but at this point in time, it looks like it's a dying business," Mr. Centini said.

"The Blue Angels aren't flying anymore," Mr. Centini added. "The Thunderbirds are grounded. With sequestration, there's no money. There's no military participation. Pretty much 90 percent of all military air shows, the big three shows that fill the big bases, are canceled."

Mr. Centini said his air show business contacts are going bankrupt because "there's no shows."

Michael Conner, assistant airport director, said the Federal Aviation Administration has started charging substantial fees for running air shows to make up for tight finances from automatic federal spending cuts.

Mr. O'Brien said even if the time is not right to bring the event back, the sequestration will end at some point.

The county commissioner said an air show would be another attraction to the region to join others like Mohegun Sun casino and arena, PNC Field, Toyota Pavilion, Pocono Raceway and the Shoppes At Montage.

"There's a whole host of all these great things going on that improve the quality of life for all the people who are living here but also provide an impetus for companies and people from out of the area to come here," Mr. O'Brien said. "The more activities we can have here, the better feel about our area."

In other business at the meeting, the board awarded a $671,101 contract to Kriger Construction to rehabilitate the airline apron and a $33,650 contract to B&H Taxilane Lighting to install a navigation device called a precision approach path indicator on the runway.

Mr. Conner described the apron work as a maintenance and safety project designed to repair ruts in the asphalt.

The board also approved two constructed-related inspection services agreements totaling $19,998 and $39,970 with McFarland-Johnson Inc., and a $58,794 change order for the ongoing hangar road extension and rehabilitation project.

Engineer Patrick McLaine told the board Scartelli Construction Services was initially asked for about twice that amount related to unforeseen road issues.

The airport board also approved a $639,907 agreement with L.R. Kimball for final design services for a project that could eventually total more than $12 million to extend the airport's taxiway.

Mr. Conner said extending the taxiway, which airplanes use to travel between the terminal and runway, will improve the airport's air traffic flow.

The bi-county board also gave airport officials approval to negotiate a contract with Aviation Technologies to become the fixed-based operator until Aug. 31, 2028, meaning the company would provide maintenance and charter services.

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