Saturday, July 12, 2014

Luzerne County may consider hangar at Wilkes-Barre Wyoming Valley Airport (KWBW)

Luzerne County Council next week might finally consider a decade-old proposal to build a maintenance hangar at the county’s Wyoming Valley Airport in Forty Fort.

Stephen Krenitsky, an unpaid consultant representing the Airport Advisory Board, Wyoming Valley Aviation and James Scrobola Aviation Services, proposed to council’s Economic Development/Real Estate Committee earlier this week that the county lease a 10,000-square foot parcel at the airport to James Scrobola Aviation Services and allow the company to build and operate a 6,400-square-foot aircraft maintenance facility on it.

Wyoming Valley Aviation has a contract with the county to operate the airport. James Scrobola Aviation Services has a separate contract to provide maintenance. James Scrobola is the head of both companies.

The parcel being considered is along Wyoming Avenue adjacent to the state police training facility.

The estimated cost of the hangar would be $225,000, and Krenitsky proposed that the county would become the owner at the expiration of the Aviation Services contract.

The building would “alleviate an acute shortage of aircraft maintenance capacity” at the public-use airport, he said.

Krenitsky said that while other small airports are struggling, Valley Aviation has “one of the most active flight training facilities in the Northeast United States, with strong growth,” and it was selected as one of the top 10 flight schools in the United States in 2013 by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

Krenitsky said all 14 of Valley Aviation’s planes are required to be inspected after every 100 hours of flight time, and each inspection takes about three days. All non-commercial aircraft require annual inspections. “This is besides normal breakdowns, normal, routine maintenance. … There’s no heated hangar space in the facility to do all this.”

Valley Aviation employs four full-time and 15 part-time employees, but would hire a second full-time licensed aircraft technician and two part-time technicians to handle the current workload if there were adequate space.

He also pointed to a 2011 state aviation study that showed the airport has a positive $3.4 million impact on the economy.

All of these facts, Krenitsky said, are “sufficient justification to preserve and grow the airport operation.”

Krenitsky proposed leasing the land from the county for $1,000 per year. He said other small airport owners are leasing land for such accommodations for $1 a year because the infrastructure benefits the airport. He also said Scrobola would be willing to lease space at a maintenance hangar if the county built one.

During public comment, county Manager Robert Lawton cautioned the committee that leasing the land for a maintenance hangar to Aviation Services could “decrease the competitive situation” and “inhibit other possible fixed base operators from bidding” when it comes time to negotiate a new contract or entertain proposals from other fixed base operators, given that Scrobola runs both companies.

Now that the Budget and Finance Committee “indicated an interest in re-opening the capital plan,” Lawton said, “it might be worthy to consider” having the county capital plan fund a maintenance hangar, have “an appropriate market-rate rental” incorporated into the fixed-based operator agreement, and take advantage of the opportunity to construct T-hangars to house planes currently using tie-downs, given the frequency of severe storms that hit the area.

“It’s another opportunity for the county to derive revenue from a capital investment,” Lawton said.

The proposal is expected to be brought before council at its work session at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the county courthouse.

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