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Pennsylvania airport officials will gather in Westmoreland to discuss FAA, safety, drones

Jeff Himler
| Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Unity on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Unity on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017.
Mike Boyd
Mike Boyd
David Yoel
David Yoel
Spencer Dickerson
Spencer Dickerson

Officials from throughout the state will travel to Westmoreland County later this month to trade notes on issues affecting airports and aviation.

Debbie Bowman, executive director of the sponsoring Aviation Council of Pennsylvania, expects about 175 people to attend the 37th annual Pennsylvania Aviation Conference, set for Sept. 27-29.

“We always have a great time when we come to the Laurel Highlands,” said Bowman.

Most activities will take place at the Ramada Greensburg Hotel and Conference Center. Those who arrive a day early will get a tour of the public safety building and L.J. Aviation facilities at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Unity — which is hosting the gathering for the first time since 1998.

The conference, which alternates between the eastern and western halves of the state, was held in Philadelphia last year.

“We're very fortunate to have it here. It brings managers from every airport that belongs to the aviation council into our region,” said Gabe Monzo, executive director of the Westmoreland County Airport Authority that operates the Unity airport.

“We can trade ideas with each other, to get ideas of what we can do with our own airports,” Monzo said.

The keynote luncheon speakers will be futurist aviation expert Michael Boyd on Sept. 27 and Spencer Dickerson, senior executive vice president of global operations for the American Association of Airport Executives, on Sept. 28.

David Yoel, a physicist and founder of space systems consulting firm American Aerospace Technologies, will discuss the future of drones on the second day of the conference.

Also part of the conference will be representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration and the state's Bureau of Aviation — the agencies that set guidelines for airports and offer funding for their capital projects.

“These are the people who guide us in what we do day to day,” Monzo noted. “It's nice to be one-on-one with them.”

Local officials will address some of the agenda topics, including emergency response planning.

“Public safety has always been a primary part of our operation,” Monzo said of the Unity airport. The public safety building, constructed there in 1985 with the help of federal and state grants, consolidated emergency equipment that had been stored in separate communities, Monzo explained.

“A lot of other airports are interested in it,” he said, noting it can serve as a backup location for the county 911 center.

“Modernizing the FAA” will be the topic of a closing Sept. 29 panel discussion that will include representatives from American Airlines and Pittsburgh International Airport.

More conference details are at

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6622, or via Twitter @jhimler_news.

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