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Possible buyer enthused about airport

October 22, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

The man who heads the Susquehanna Area Regional Airport Authority's Board of Directors said his group is looking forward to continued discussions about the possibility of taking over Chambersburg Municipal Airport.

"We're enthusiastic about the prospect," Chairman Eric R. Clancy said Tuesday. "We're very amenable to this type of dialogue."

The Borough of Chambersburg's decision to get out of the airport business by the end of this year prompted pilots, businesses at the airport and aviation enthusiasts to form a group, which has been attempting to find a way to keep the airport open. That included a request in July that Franklin County consider forming an authority to take it over.

Having an established authority take over the airport, however, would eliminate that need and bring in a team with experience in running much larger facilities. Created in 1997, the authority took over both Harrisburg (Pa.) International Airport and the nearby Capital City Airport on Jan. 1, 1998.

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"We certainly have the capacity and expertise to navigate this," Clancy said of the technical, legal and financial obstacles to taking over the airport, which the borough wants to sell.

That expertise includes engineers and experts who can plan for airport layout, administration, security and operations, plus people with the knowledge to access the state and federal government programs that are essential to keeping airports in business, he said.

"It's the steady diet of state and federal money that keeps airports open," Clancy said. While many airports can cover operational expenses, making capital improvements to a facility usually requires government subsidies.

"That's why the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) collects a lot of money on all our plane tickets," he said.

Chambersburg Municipal Airport, with its 93 acres of land and 3,300-foot runway, would continue to be used to support general aviation if the authority buys it, Clancy said. Those who now use and operate the airport would play a role in determining its use in the future, he said.

"Having that airport out there is important to us" in supporting general aviation, a category that includes private pilots and corporate operations, Clancy said. Keeping an existing airport open also is more practical than building a new one when additional capacity is needed.

A recent appraisal of the airport commissioned by the borough put its estimated value at $790,000, Borough Manager Eric Oyer told the council last week. If the airport is sold, the money will be earmarked for road repairs in the borough.

Clancy said the authority is working to get all the necessary parties together for another meeting in the near future. Oyer said Monday that he believes a sale to the authority could be a solution that best meets the needs of the borough and airport supporters.

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