Westmoreland County Airshow won’t fly in 2020
The Westmoreland County Airshow will be on hiatus next year.
The Navy Blue Angels and the Air Force Thunderbirds are unavailable for booking because their schedules are full, according to the county airport authority.
It will be the first time since 2012 that there won’t be a show at the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Unity.
The authority did make the request two years in advance, as is required, authority Executive Director Gabe Monzo said. The board was flexible on scheduling dates, Monzo said.
“Anytime,” he joked.
The only way the air show might be held next year is if there is a cancellation in the schedules for the jet teams, Monzo said.
A spokesman for the Navy’s Blue Angels could not be reached for comment.
It takes a lead jet demonstration team to draw a huge crowd.
Monzo said the authority will not send personnel to Las Vegas to the International Council of Air Shows convention in December to fill the weekend with other aerial acts.
The economic impact of the air show is significant for area hotels and restaurants. Air show visitors may spend, on average, between $100 and $400 during the air show, which typically spans Saturday and Sunday, according to a recent study by the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau. In some years, the crowds were estimated at about 100,000.
The loss of the air show will be a disappointment to a lot of people who look forward to the event, said Brianna Pomack, president of the Greater Latrobe-Laurel Valley Chamber of Commerce.
“It will be a big loss for us,” Pomack said.
The airport authority has been fortunate that it has been able to get on the schedule for the Blue Angels and similar squadrons, given all of the competition among airports for those teams, Pomack said.
To Westmoreland County Commissioner Charles Anderson, a retired Marine Corps pilot, the air show was one of the highlights of the year, “not just for me but for a lot of people in the area. Hopefully, they will come back in the future because it is great for economic development in the county.”
Westmoreland County Commissioner Gina Cerilli said she understood that that “big acts like the Blue Angels cannot commit to being in Westmoreland every year.”
“We love having it,” said Ron DeNunzio, owner of DeNunzio’s Italian Chophouse & Sinatra Bar at the airport terminal.
Planning for ordering the food and beverages and making the arrangements to serve visitors starts about a month before the event.
“It is a very hectic time of the year,” DeNunzio said. .
As disappointed as air show fans may be, Monzo said it may be for the best as the airport will be undergoing a runway expansion and strengthening project next year.
Golden Triangle Construction LLC of Imperial, which received an $11.9 million contract for the project, is in the process of obtaining permits so work can start in April, said Dwayne Pickels, airport authority grants director.
The runway width is to be expanded from 100 feet to 150 feet, adding a 25-foot strip on each edge. This will give pilots a bigger target in poor weather conditions, officials said.
In conjunction with the widening and strengthening project, the authority expects the airport runway will be closed for 16 days in September, but “that is very tentative at present and will depend on progress up until then,” Pickels said.
Spirit Airlines, the airport’s lone scheduled carrier, is on board with the shutdown, Pickels said. Spirit typically experiences fewer passengers after Labor Day.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, [email protected] or via Twitter .