Upgrades to Butler County Airport to be made with federal, state money

| Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The Butler County Airport will receive $1 million in federal and state grant money to expand its taxiway and increase the size of the safety buffer around the airport.

“Aviation keeps changing, and we have to keep up,” said manager Ivan Longdon about the airport, also known as K.W. Scholter Field. “If we're going to be progressive, we have to change with it.”

The taxiway adjacent to the hangars will be widened from 20 feet to 40 feet, Longdon said. Some of the taxiway has been widened. Longdon said upgraded Federal Aviation Administration requirements called for the expansion.

Gov. Tom Corbett's office announced the grant to the airport on Aug. 23.

Longdon said automatic spending cuts as part of the federal sequester delayed the grants, which are usually distributed in the spring. Because of that, work on the taxiway expansion won't begin until early next year, after the cold weather breaks.

“There's no use starting digging in October,” Longdon said.

The Butler County Airport Authority plans to purchase about four acres on the western end of the runway to increase the safety buffer.

The airport, in Penn, has about 75,000 takeoffs and landings a year, according to FAA statistics. It handles single-engine aircraft, some smaller multi-engine aircraft, and corporate jets and helicopters.

Ninety percent of the funding comes from the Federal Block Grant program, while another 5 percent is from the state through the jet fuel tax, and another 5 percent from the county, Longdon said.

About $260,000 will be used to buy about four acres of land near one end of the runway, Longdon said. Airports are required to have a runway protection zone, essentially a buffer zone beyond a runway for the safety of those around the airport.

The Zelienople Airport in Franklin, Beaver County, adjacent to Zelienople, received $1.6 million for development of an airpark.

According to the airport's website, the airport's authority has been working on the expansion since 2001, and the authority, the Pennsylvania Bureau of Aviation and the FAA approved a comprehensive plan in 2006, which calls for new hangars, new roads and infrastructure. Construction is continuing on those projects.

Airport officials did not return phone messages seeking comment.

The Butler and Zelienople airports were among 15 airports statewide sharing in $5.4 million in state and federal funds, according to Corbett's office.

“Pennsylvania's public-use airports produce more than $23 billion in economic activity every year,” Corbett said in a statement. “This shows why it's so important to invest in transportation. Improving airport safety and efficiency supports jobs and businesses across the state.”

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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