Friday, February 03, 2017

Sidney, Delaware County, New York: Aviator offers lessons, flights

Bernie Ford, owner and operator of Delaware Aviation at 199 River St. in Sidney, has had his eyes on the sky, he says, ever since he can remember. 

“When I was a kid, I used to look up and always watch the planes and build models,” said Ford. Giving a childhood preoccupation wings, Ford first got his pilot’s license in 1965 and has “flown everything from a 300-seater to a two-seater” in the intervening years.

It was in 1991, after working for a string of commercial airlines that ultimately went bust, that Ford first got the notion to take matters into his own hands.

 “After three or four of those [bankruptcies], I said, ‘well, I guess I’ll just do it myself,’” Ford said.

He was keen to launch the business in Sidney because of its municipal airport and because, fresh out of school, he was already working in the village for the Amphenol Corporation.

Today, with the three other pilots, full-time mechanic and part-time mechanic he employs, Ford offers services from aircraft maintenance and inspection to year-round lessons and corporate transport. Ford estimated that about 75 percent of Delaware Aviation’s business is derived from chartering business people around the country.

“I can be to Albany, Syracuse, [or] Binghamton in about 20 minutes,” said Ford.

Standing between the two seven-passenger jet-powered turbo prop aircraft that he owns and uses most often, Ford said that traveling with him gives business people the leisure of arriving just before the scheduled flight and simply walking out to the hangar and onto the airplane. “It’s the convenience and the time factor,” remarked Ford, mentioning quick turnaround trips to such places as Minneapolis, Boston, Washington, D.C. and New Jersey that offer clients the option of arriving and returning home in the same day.

In some ways, noted Ford, his services are not unlike that of a taxicab. And, because his business transport airplanes have pressurized cabins, Ford can fly even when driving is untenable. “Days when it’s snowing down here,” said Ford, “I can go up in the blue sky.”

Ford, who many may know from rides taken during the Fagan Flyers Club’s biannual fly-in breakfasts held at the airport, said his line of work has its memorable moments. Recalling a “fella” who asked to be taken up with his sweetheart, only to fly over a giant backyard sign asking her hand in marriage, Ford said, “sometimes you get some interesting stories.” He also counted flying people over their properties to scatter the ashes of a loved one as a special honor.

Ford shared that, in terms of Delaware Aviation’s future, he hopes to hire an additional pilot and mechanic and continue upgrading equipment as needed. He also mentioned that he looks forward the springtime fly-in breakfast, held yearly in the first weekend of June.

Asked if he ever still flies for the fun of it, Ford, wearing a mechanic’s coverall, bobbed in and out of the wide wings of the eight planes filling the main hangar at Sidney Municipal Airport to settle near a 65-year-old yellow-striped Cessna-195. It’s an aircraft he rebuilt himself and he said he does, on the occasional weekend, take it up for a joyride.

Delaware Aviation online:


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