An airshow might be exactly what’s needed to give a lift to the underappreciated airport in Avoca.
Reviving the aeronautics-themed event, last held at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport nearly 15 years ago, would require a lot of upfront cash and effort.
Yet this top-notch facility should be constantly trying to raise its profile – and, in turn, profitability – through all manner of public activities, as suggested recently by Corey O’Brien, a Lackawanna County representative on the bi-county airport board. Among O’Brien’s proposals: Bring back the airshow on a regular basis (even if not yearly), build an aviation museum and hold special events, including tours for school groups.
Of those notions, the airshow seems a sure-fire hit.
The U.S. Navy Blue Angels, a military jet demonstration team, highlighted the most recent airshow in Avoca in 2000. At the time, airport officials indicated they probably would suspend the event for a year or two during construction of the new terminal and related, multimillion-dollar upgrades. In all, the airport had served as host to 18 airshows, some of which lost money, according to airport Director Barry Centini.
The airport board, prodded by O’Brien in September 2013, approved a motion urging staffers to explore what it would take for the airshow’s return in 2015.
Centini has raised legitimate concerns, notably that the airport has been entirely reconfigured since it last attracted big crowds to an outdoor event. Parking could be a problem, he said. Also, many military flying teams have scaled back their airshow appearances, potentially negating a major draw.
Even so, the seasonal appearance of airshows in other places, including the Lehigh Valley and Binghamton, New York, proves it is possible. (For more credence, see the schedule at airshows.com.) Even a smaller-scale event in Avoca would be preferable to none at all.
If military fliers are out of the question, how about spotlighting skydivers? Or helicopters? Hot air balloons? In Lock Haven, the central Pennsylvania community where Piper aircraft were once manufactured, witness the success of the yearly Sentimental Journey Fly-in. Certainly, something can be done in Avoca to promote not only the airport, but also careers in aviation.
A prior news article about O’Brien’s suggestions elicited these online comments from readers:
• “Air show great idea,” one stated. “I used to go to them years ago. The place was packed, and the shows were awesome.”
• Another wrote: “Don’t think a museum would draw people unless it … had some really well-known, vintage aircraft. On the other hand, the old airshows were extremely impressive. I don’t think a $20 admission would be out of line for airshows of that quality.”
To prepare for a possible show as soon as next year, airport administrators need to design and present a blueprint as soon as possible, providing estimated costs. Let’s see if this thing can fly.