Friday, July 11, 2014

Messages blowin’ in the wind

Banner towing a high-flying art for family

September 08. 2013 11:55PM

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WYOMING — Pilot Joe Scrobola banked over the Susquehanna River, turning back toward the airport.

“See those two posts? We’re going to have to get right between them,” he crackled over his headset.

He tossed a grappling hook from the cockpit and started a steep descent toward the grassy field, only to shoot skyward after passing over the posts.

A gentle tug on the 1995 Husky aircraft let him know his first attempt at catching a banner advertisement from its docking posts succeeded.

“We got it,” he said with an air of satisfaction.

Valley Aviation at the Wyoming Valley Airport offers aerial advertising, towing banners with messages up to 50 characters long.

They charge $350 per hour with discounts for longer flights. They also fly graphic banners on request.

The Scrobolas make running the county-owned airport a family affair. Just about everyone prepping for Saturday’s banner flight had the same last name.

Assembling the banner took four young pilots about 25 minutes.

They fly a lot of personal messages, happy-birthday wishes, congratulatory messages for college graduates and an occasional marriage proposal.

Dorothy Scrobola, who is known around the tarmac as “Gram,” said one such customer was successful in winning his bride.

Advertisers crow over the exclusive advertising avenue’s response, said Jim Scrobola, the airport’s caretaker. Luzerne Bank noted a rise in new customers in the days after they flew a banner past Mohegan Sun Casino’s Party on the Patio, Jim said.

Commercial pilot Ed Topper of Nanticoke got the Scrobola’s banner-towing enterprise off the ground.

Topper earned his pilot’s license towing ads along the Jersey Shore and got to know the business.

He taught the Scrobolas how to set up the banners, what kind of plane was best for pulling them and, most important, how to catch them with a grappling hook.

He was always friends with the Scrobola family and now he offers guidance for Valley Aviation’s aerial advertising.

“We started the operation last June and it really took off,” Topper said. “No pun intended.”


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