Airport deserving of winning award

The Jefferson County Airpark has come a long way from the days of two hangars and an asphalt runway that was used by a relatively small group of residents who owned their own small plane.

The airport now has a new terminal, new hangars and the runway is about to be extended to accommodate larger planes and jets.

The airport has gone from exclusive use by local pilots to a destination for pilots flying in from other areas. These pilots are bringing people into the area on business, most likely for the oil and gas industry.

Pilots like the new terminal. It is a place for them to relax and prepare for the flight home, and word has spread about our local airport.

The airport was named the 2013 airport of the year by the Ohio Aviation Association.

The award will no doubt lead to even more use of the facility.

Bids are out to extend the runway by 600 feet to a length of 5,000 feet. The bid opening is set for the June 13 meeting of th Jefferson County commissioners.

The project is estimated at $2 million, with the state contributing $1.5 million. The county is responsible for $500,000.

The airport authority also is working on updating the master plan for the airport, which is to include the facility applying to the Federal Aviation Administration for a higher designation of use.

That will result in additional money being available from the FAA for even more improvements.

The county’s airport has become an integral part of economic development plans in the county. Businesses want to move people and supplies quickly, and that will play a big part in businesses wanting to locate here.

The county pushed hard to get the $1.5 million in state grants for the runway extension. The $500,000 in local money is a good investment in the future of the county.

The airport also has a base for a STAT MedEvac medical helicopter that can quickly be at the scene of an emergency to fly critically injured people to life-saving medical help in Pittsburgh.

It also is home to an active community of aviation enthusiasts who want to be sure area residents recognize what is happening at the airport.

With that in mind, Chapter 859 of the Experimental Aircraft Association has landed a visit from one of two Ford Tri-Motor airliners from the 1930s to visit the airport. The public has the opportunity to see, hear, and if they’re so inclined, ride in the restored aviation relic from the Kalamazoo Air Zoo during its visit today through Wednesday. Tickets to ride aboard the Ford are $75 for adults and $50 for children 17 and under. The plane will be flying from about 9 a.m. to about 5 p.m. all three days.

The airport is developing into a facility that is gaining recognition by pilots and business people, and that is good for the county as a whole, not just local residents who own a plane.