Monday, February 24, 2014

Officials consider adding air show at Warren County airport ... Several years of planning needed

QUEENSBURY -- Warren County officials are exploring the idea of bringing an air show to the county airport, a show that would be the first air show at the airport since a near-disaster during one in 1997.

The county’s airport manager, Ross Dubarry, visited an air show in western New York last summer after county officials decided to look into the possibility of holding one at Warren County airport in the coming years as county officials look to increase usage of the property.

The price tag would be about $150,000 on the county’s end, but the event could bring in significant revenue.

With the need for years of planning, the earliest a show could return would be 2016, but more likely 2017, county Public Works Superintendent Jeff Tennyson said.

“We are on a track to bring an air show back if the county Board of Supervisors is comfortable of the risk,” Tennyson said.

The biggest risk is the possibility of bad weather wiping out the event, he said.

Dubarry said the airport could not host a major military-themed air show like the renowned Blue Angels because of a lack of area for crowds to watch, but could hold one with smaller, high-performance aircraft.

Dubarry visited an air show in Geneseo last summer as part of the county’s effort to research the feasibility of one in Queensbury.

The airport held occasional air shows from the 1980s to 1997, but there was a mid-air collision at the last show that -- while it did not result in a crash -- caused county supervisors to opt not to have air shows at the airport.

The possibility of an air show returning to the airport was discussed publicly for the first time Monday at a meeting of the Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport Advisory Committee.

The committee was created last year to make recommendations to the county Board of Supervisors abut how to better market the airport to increase revenue.

Among the ideas that have been discussed were to try to work with Saratoga County airport to handle the region’s jet traffic in the summer, during Saratoga Race Course season.

Queensbury Supervisor John Strough suggested trying to bring a professional kite flying show to the airport during the Adirondack Balloon Festival. He said videos online of professional kite flying are “incredible.”

Marketing for more pilot “fly-ins” was also discussed, though pilot representative Harrison Freer said the county airport was viewed as “unwelcoming” by pilot groups because of limitations put on airport activity such as vendors.

The committee also plans to recommend that the county work with SUNY Adirondack to see if students studying marketing and Web design can assist with efforts to better market the airport.