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December 5, 2012

Port Meadville Airport looks forward to improvements

MEADVILLE — Upcoming developments for the Port Meadville Airport are expected to take flight as early as next year, as administrators revealed major improvement plans for their operation on Tuesday.

Members of the Crawford County Regional Airport Authority presented a draft of their 2013 budget to the Crawford County Board of Commissioners at the commissioners work session, outlining new developments including capital budget projects — despite increasing costs to match state and federal grant moneys.

The airport serves the Meadville region from its Port Meadville facilities in Vernon Township near the intersections of routes 98 and 322.

Outside of hangar maintenance and vehicle replacement, the Airport Authority plans to acquire land and begin Phase I work on rejuvenating the runway with an overlay project, according to Christopher Junker of the Authority Finance Committee.

“We have a specific site in mind, although the issues the airport has with the planned acquisition has to do with Federal Aviation Administration regulations,” he said. “The area has to be clear of obstructions.”

The runway overlay is expected to continue in 2014 in order to allow local and state approvals for planning, design and eventually construction. No runway extensions are planned in the 2013 budget.

Additionally, the authority hopes to develop a multi-municipality hazard zoning ordinance upon acquiring more runway protection zone property. This will provide more space for aircraft to maneuver safely.

“Not every airplane has the capability to be perfectly where it needs to be at all times, so we plan to clarify margins,” said Junker. “I’m really interested to see how it works.”

The authority’s future projects are expected to begin under a rise in the organization’s local share rate, a match percentage of any project grants acquired from the Bureau of Aviation.

“With the match requirement for grants going up, they’ll have to pay a bit more out of pocket,” said county Commissioner Jack Lynch.

Authority adminstrators are projecting the local share percentage to increase from 2 to 5 percent, leading the company to pay $12,139 on the $242,778 cost of land acquisition and obstruction removal, according to the 2013 budget.

“The only real source of income for them is sale of fuel and hangar space,” said Lynch, responding to the authority’s reports of rising costs.

Fuel sales remain the primary source of income which finance committee members rely on to offset rising costs, said Junker, who reported hangars are mostly full, with tenants coming and going.

“Fuel sales are coming along fairly well,” he added. “Two things that worked well were fuel sales for emergency helicopter services and overall delivery costs.”

Frequent sales to Stat MedEvac and corporate jets, particularly those belonging to Channellock and Ainsworth Pet Nutrition, also help balance the authority’s budget, which Lynch believes will be passed by Tuesday.

“They usually come to us prior to finalizing their budget,” Lynch noted after Tuesday’s meeting. “They’ve done a very good job, historically.”

Further developments expected to take place over the next four years include Phase II of the runway overlay; a Phase I design for rehabilitating the apron and taxi lane; and rehabilitating a fuel farm.

“In terms of fiscal control, the authority is superb,” said Lynch, who praised the airport’s thriving despite a lack of financial security net. “That’s the heart and soul of that small operation.”

Konstantine Fekos can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at kfekos@meadvilletribune.com.

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