Marc Fox has settled into his job as manager of Port Meadville Airport with ease and is enjoying every day as he faces the challenges of operating the local facility.
The image of a manager often is accompanied by the thought of a man in a dress suit and tie or a woman in a business suit. But for Fox, his business attire on most days is jeans, work boots and work shirt as his job includes the airport’s day-to-day chores — mowing grass, shoveling snow and general maintenance. But, on occasion, when he has to be the airport representative for business purposes, he dons a suit and tie and is as comfortable as he is in blue jeans.
“I wanted to be an attorney,” he said of his high school and college days. After graduating in 1973 from Conneaut Valley High School, he went to college at Edinboro State University, where he majored in history. That decision was based on a discussion with some lawyers who visited the school. One said he majored in history because you had to write a lot and he knew he would have to write a lot as an attorney. However, Fox decided he didn’t want to spend the additional three years after four years of college to obtain a law degree. He noted he could make a lot more money working in a mill than he could as an attorney.
He spent 27 years in management at Union Carbide in Ashtabula, Ohio, before the company closed. He learned all types of things on the job there. For example, he said, although he was a manager, he often did other work during periods when union contract issues kept workers off the job. He was required to do the jobs workers did until they returned. He learned a lot of skills that proved valuable even after he left that company.
He came to Port Meadville Airport in 2005 after answering a newspaper ad for linemen for the airport. Port Meadville was owned and operated by the City of Meadville until the county assumed its operation in 2004 and formed the Crawford County Regional Airport Authority. Although the authority bears the county’s name, it chose to keep the historic Port Meadville Airport name, which has been in place since the 1930s.
At one time, the airport had three linemen, including several retirees. As they chose to go to full-time retirement, Fox became the head lineman. At that time, Jack Lynch was airport manager — a part-time position in addition to his job as county planner. When Lynch became county commissioner in January, he resigned as airport manager. The authority then consolidated Fox’s job and Lynch’s into one full-time position.
Fox works 45 hours a week and is on call as well. Two linemen work on weekends.
Describing the airport as a “diamond coming out of the rough,” Fox said he believes people are starting to realize the value of an airport to a region. Ainsworth Pet Nutrition and Greenleaf Corporation are the two major companies with hangars at the airport, he said. However, many other businesses, such as Saegertown Manufacturing, Meadville Forge and others use the facility on a regular basis.
Business jets fly into the area on a regular basis. For example, he said in the month of March alone, 21 jets flew in and 27 jets flew out of the airport.
But it’s not all business travel. “Believe it or not, but the hot dog place at the end of the road (Eddie’s Hot Dog Stand) draws (a lot of visitors),” he said.
The airport is “self controlled,” he said, noting the Federal Aviation Administration handles the controls. You can hear pilots talking with each other on the radio as they approach or depart or circle above to land. That means there are no traffic controllers on site at the small facility.
In addition to the two corporations with jets located on the grounds, the airport also has 29 other hangars rented by private individuals. They were constructed after the county took over. “We are full to capacity,” said Fox. In addition, an emergency medical helicopter is housed at Port Meadville.
Asked to describe his typical day, Fox said, “There is no typical day.” Some days, he is mowing grass; other days, plowing snow. He must always take time to do paperwork and work with other government agencies. For example, he works with Pennsylvania Department of Transportation through its agility program. The airport stores some equipment for PennDOT, which in turn does some maintenance work for the airport.
He also works with the business plan and ensures the airport meets all regulations.
Helping visitors is another part of the job. He may provide them with a courtesy car or access to the rental cars. He makes certain the diesel fuel tanks are filled to ensure pilots have 24/7 access. The tanks are operated with a credit card so attendants are not required.
If he had all the money he wanted to make improvements at the airport, Fox said he would build a hangar to accommodate bigger planes. “The old hangars were built in the 1940s,” he said, noting today’s planes have tails so tall they can’t get in the space.
He said the Vernon Township facility is in a good location with easy access to restaurants, motels and entertainment. He recalls such well-known personalities who landed at Port Meadville, such as President Bill Clinton, Pittsburgh Steeler Terry Bradshaw and country music stars such as Toby Keith and Billy Ray Cyrus.
“I never get bored with it,” Fox said as he paused to answer telephone calls during the interview. “There is no such thing as a typical day.”