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Butler County Airport runway could expand

| Saturday, July 19, 2014, 5:51 p.m.

Officials at the Butler County Airport will spend about $300,000 to determine whether they should expand the runway at the Penn flight complex.

“I think it would be a real plus for Butler County,” said county Commissioner A. Dale Pinkerton, saying the expansion, up to 700 feet, could help attract corporate jets.

The feasibility study will be paid for through a $1.3 million grant Gov. Tom Corbett announced last week.

“If the costs justify the means, we'll see,” airport manager Ivan Longdon said of the runway expansion. “Initially, the cost was estimated at $20 million, but I can't see we can do it for that much money because of inflation — the cost of materials is going up.” Longdon earlier said the airport wants to extend the 4,801-foot runway by another 700 feet. In 2005, the airport authority added 500 feet to the runway.

Along with the feasibility study, the grant will enable the airport, known as the K.W. Scholter Field, to spend about $750,000 to finish expanding the taxiway adjacent to the airport hangars. It's the third phase of the expansion to widen the taxiway from 20 to 40 feet, under Federal Aviation Administration requirements.

The airport also will use the grant — a mix of federal, state and local money — to buy land adjacent to the airport property. Airports are required to have a runway protection zone, essentially a buffer zone beyond a runway for the safety of those around the airport. Longdon said the location of the land hasn't been determined.

The airport in Penn tallies about 75,000 takeoffs and landings a year, according to the FAA. It handles single-engine aircraft, some smaller multi-engine aircraft and helicopters. According to a study from PennDOT's Bureau of Aviation, the airport, with 228 employees, has a payroll of $9.2 million, and an economic impact of just over $39 million.

“We don't want to stand still,” Longdon said.

Also receiving grant money is the Zelienople Airport in Franklin, Beaver County, adjacent to Zelienople. The airport will get $150,000 to install visual indicators to assist pilots in landing.

In all, 35 airports across the state received funding. The federal government supplied $17.1 million, and the state nearly $905,000. Local governments matched the state's contribution.

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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