Bring back airshow, create aviation museum, airport official says

September 17th, 2015 3:13 pm

First Posted: 8/21/2014

PITTSTON TWP. — Lackawanna County Commissioner Corey O’Brien said Thursday bringing back the airshow, holding other events and establishing a small aviation museum could draw more people to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport.

“What people don’t realize is what we have here,” O’Brien told his fellow bi-county airport board members at their monthly meeting.

He suggested bringing back the airshow, which hasn’t been held at the airport since 2000. He said the recent military aircraft display at the Hazleton Airport drew crowds.

The airshows, held for nearly two decades, ended when major construction projects such as the addition of a new terminal building, a parking expansion, a new air traffic control tower and a roadway expansion began.

O’Brien said an aviation museum wouldn’t have to be anything elaborate.

“Why not build one of those stick buildings and put a museum in it?” O’Brien suggested. “It would be a way to attract people more routinely.”

He said the airport could ask the military for a decommissioned aircraft for the museum.

The airport also could hold aviation days, and school tours could be expanded, he said.

“Give all the kids an airport ID and they spend the day learning about aviation,” O’Brien said.

Airport Director Barry Centini said bringing back the airshow would be a good idea, but not this year, at least, with the massive Interstate 81 project underway at the airport exit and near the airport and with the $10 million taxiway extension and demolition of the old terminal in the works.

As for a military show, he said that with cutbacks in the military, it would be difficult to do. But he agreed a museum and open houses would be good.

That’s not to say the airport hasn’t been getting busier. Centini noted earlier in the meeting there still are large numbers of out-of-state plates in the airport’s public parking, a good amount of them from gas-producing states such as Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma. He said that suggests they are here working at natural gas drilling sites and fly home or elsewhere during their time off.

Centini said 17.6 percent of vehicles parked overnight in July were from out of state, and an average of 16.5 percent have been from out of state since the beginning of the year.

The passenger enplanement report presented at the meeting showed about 2.9 percent more people flew out of the airport in July than did in July 2013. Assistant Airport Director Michael Conner reported 19,863 passengers flew out last month, compared to 19,305 a year earlier. Conner said the increase mainly was due to an increase in passengers through Philadelphia.

Last month’s number also is an increase of 637, or 3.3 percent over July 2012, and an increase of 901 passengers, or 4.8 percent, over June of this year. The latter increase is attributable to an increase in passengers through Philadelphia, Chicago and Detroit.

The increase last month came despite the cancellation of 22 departing flights, representing 4 percent of seats, during the month, 17 for air traffic or weather and five for mechanical reasons.

General aviation revenues for July 2014 increased by $3,038, or 21 percent, to $17,574, Conner reported. Airport operations had a net income of $63,088 last month, compared to a net loss of $16,588 in July 2013. The year-to-date net loss for 2014 is $85,797, compared to the 2013 income of $90,640, according to Conner’s report.