By Marcia Moore
The Daily Item
Four years after taking over the daily operation of the Penn Valley Airport, Heritage Aviation has paid off nearly all the $650,000 debt, filled its hangar and expanded the flight school.
“It’s positive progress,” airport manager Jim Taylor said.
As its financial situation improves, the airport has continued to be abuzz with activity.
The former district judge office has been converted to accommodate the expanded flight school, which has 49 students. The hangar is filled to capacity and plans are to add a third mechanic and increase airport staff to 11.
Taylor credited Paul and Eric John, of Heritage Aviation, and airport supporters with lifting the facility out of financial turmoil since the John brothers were tapped to take over operations in October 2008 by the Penn Valley Airport Authority.
When Heritage Aviation stepped in, the airport had collected a total of $84,023 in contributions between 1994 and 2007 from Snyder County and a few municipalities.
In the past four years, the local governments, along with new donors Union County and Penn Township, contributed $113,500, or about 20 percent of the debt that has been paid off.
Also helping to reduce the debt are a few private donors “who believe in what we’re doing here,” Taylor said.
On average each year, the airport has 3,000 plane arrivals, bringing 8,000 visitors to the area, and contributes $1.5 million directly in salaries.
Touting the benefits, airport representatives are encouraging local governments to increase funding.
Some, including Monroe Township, which gives $2,100 a year, declined to give more in 2013, but a few have increased their support. Shamokin Dam agreed to increase its donation by $300, to $1,400, and Middleburg agreed to continue its funding and raise it by 25 percent to $750.
As a result of the support, Taylor said he expects the airport will be able to pay off the remaining $50,000 debt within two years.