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Westmoreland County Air Show planners eye 2014 edition

| Wednesday, July 10, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

As the summer passes without a Westmoreland County Air Show this year, officials are beginning the preliminary planning to stage the two-day event at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in 2014.

“Of course, we have to look at our finances, if we can afford it,” said Anthony Ferrante, promotions committee chairman with the Westmoreland County Airport Authority.

The June 2012 event drew about 75,000 spectators, but the air show was canceled for 2013 because the Air Force ended public performances by the Thunderbirds precision jet team because of federal sequester budget cuts.

The show costs about $300,000 to organize, and attendance depends on the draw of a centerpiece military performance and good weather, said Don Rossi, authority chairman.

“If the weather doesn't break your way, then, you lose,” he said.

Ferrante said the air show, which returned to the Unity airport in 2011 after a 10-year hiatus, acts more as a community outreach and open house for the airport than a money-maker for the authority.

“What it does is show off the airport; it's a big showcase,” he said.

Ferrante told the board at Tuesday's meeting that he plans to begin committee meetings to brainstorm ways to generate more revenue and make the 2014 Westmoreland County Air Show more efficient.

“The earlier you start, the more time you have to come up with all this,” he said.

Applications to the Department of Defense requesting military participation for a team like the Thunderbirds or Blue Angels, which have performed in years past, need to be submitted two years in advance, said Gabe Monzo, authority executive director.

A request is in for 2014, and another was submitted earlier this month for 2015, he said.

The applications do not require specific dates, other than to request an appearance during the summer season, depending on each team's availability, Monzo said.

In other business, a traffic record shows that 25,214 passengers passed through the airport in June, bringing the total to 114,802 so far in 2013. Since February 2011 when Spirit Airlines began its service to the airport, 325,471 passengers total have flown in and out.

“It's a lot of people moving through here,” Rossi said. “It's fun to be here when the terminal's full.”

Monzo said fewer than 50 parking spaces were open, and 80 vehicles were parked in the grass on Saturday.

The airport has space for about 1,100 passenger vehicles, including the 250 spaces added in June.

Monzo said a charter flight with 150 passengers left Friday along with the four regular Spirit flights to Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Myrtle Beach and Dallas-Fort Worth.

Mondays and Fridays are the busiest days at the airport, he said.

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or sfederoff@tribweb.com.

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