Sunday, April 30, 2017

World War II area at Reading Regional Airport (KRDG) spurs worries

Bern Township, Pennsylvania  -    The Reading Regional Airport Authority board has had its first look at the proposed creation of "the most unique WWII-themed experience in the U.S."

"The concept is awesome, and will bring a lot of people to the airport," Airport Manager Terry P. Sroka told the board last week.

There were, however, strong reservations voiced about the plans.

Russ Strine, president of the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum that has annually hosted the World War II Weekend Air Show since 1990, made the following proposal:

"Bringing the Carl A. Spaatz Field to life with an operational WWII-era control tower as its centerpiece, a WWII-style hangar and a Victory Road memorial walk, a concrete hard stand, authentic WWII warbirds plus new displays and exhibits."

Sroka noted that preliminary cost estimates for the control tower are projected at $175,000 and the hangar at $100,000.

The Victory Road would be a lasting commemoration of bricks to remember veterans, and would range in cost from 4-by-8-inch bricks with text for $75 to 12-by-12-inch bricks with text and graphic for $500, he said.

The "General James Stewart Tower" would have worldwide name recognition.

In addition to being an actor, Jimmy Stewart also served in WWII, Korea, Vietnam and during the Cold War.

Stewart was born in Indiana County on May 20, 1908, and his WWII service included being commander of the 703rd Bomb Squadron, 445th Battle Group of the (Mighty) Eighth Air Force.

According to Strine, the project will support local, regional and national aviation, and provide a context for aircraft collections from the 1920s through the modern era after WWII.

In Strine's extensive and detailed presentation, "getting there" will entail a facilities plan, a range of approvals, fundraising campaigns, plus enhanced marketing through name recognition.

Opportunities to generate revenue will include commemorative events, themed events and fly-ins for each aviation era, aviation innovation and technology competitions, aviation restoration workshops, warbirds ground school/flights and Federal Aviation Administration training and seminars.

And publicity would include newsletter updates and potential local and national media coverage.

Finally, the entire project offers opportunities for increased airport use, enhanced visitor experience, more space for events and programs, protecting/preserving valuable aircraft and a lasting memorial, Sroka noted.

"While the concept is truly amazing, Russ has to consider an alternate location," board Chairman Michael A. Setley emphasized strongly.

"I also have huge concerns about public safety, with unescorted individuals walking on active aprons and taxiways," board Vice Chairman Randall W. Swan added.

Sroka, director Paul J. Prutzman and other board members agreed that the proposed WWII tower and hangar locations just south of the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum have too many safety issues and need to be changed.

"We're very supportive of his (Strine's) concept and we're not saying 'no' in any way, but the proposed site raises access issues with the possibility of children and adults wandering around and getting hurt," Sroka concluded.

Original article can be found here: http://www.readingeagle.com

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