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Airport authority to install navigational system

| Saturday, June 23, 2001

DUNBAR - The Fayette County Airport Authority this week approved a motion to install a navigational system which was taken out of service last month when a sky diver missed her target and struck the equipment.

Late last month, a person jumping from a plane owned by Pittsburgh Skydiving Center Inc., which leases space at the Fayette County Airport, missed the landing zone located next to the school's building. An off-field landing resulted, with the skydiver, whose name has not been released, landing on a localizer situated at the end of the runway.

The diver's landing knocked the navigational aid out of service.

The authority voted to install a used localizer unit, and solicitor Mark Rowan said he will send a letter to the school stating that it should bear the installation cost. Rowan said the cost of upgrading to a new navigational unit would have to be born by the authority.

Authority members agreed that the unit needed to be installed to eliminate the safety issue. Airport manager Diana Wally did not have a damage estimate but roughly estimated approximately $5,000. The board estimated it would cost $2,500 to purchase the unit and have it installed and aligned.

'If we have something on hand, we need to get it up,' said Jesse Wallace, authority chairman.

Davis said the localizer unit is needed to allow planes to land in low instrument conditions.

Any time a pilot intends to fly they must file a flight plan of the airport they are flying into and check with that airport and see if the NOTAM (notice to airmen) advises pilots if the localizer is operational or not.

Wally said the Connellsville Airport files its NOTAM with Altoona Flight Service. She added that the jumper only suffered a broken foot and hand.

While representatives of the skydiving center did not attend Thursday's meeting, Edward Ganley and Donald Bick sent a letter to authority members stating that 'pilots are not put at risk' and a 'dangerous situation does not exist because the navigational system is currently not working. Ganley and Bick, in the letter dated June 21, indicate that the situation still exists because the replacement part has been difficult to obtain.

In response to an article published by a Uniontown newspaper concerning the broken equipment, the men state that they have not said the authority should bear the costs of replacement. Rather, the men said the jumper who hit the device should 'shoulder the cost' and have provided her name and address to the authority. The men, further indicate, that it was never guaranteed jumpers would land in designated areas.

'When the board did their research with other skydiving centers as well as USPA, they were aware that off-field landings would happen from time to time,' the letter reads. 'We explained to the board, prior to signing our lease, that off-field landings would be the exception, not the rule.'

Rowan, upon reviewing the letter, said the board would like to meet with Ganley and Bick to avoid this happening again. Rowan said the board would have to look at its insurance policy to see if there is a replacement clause which might pay for the cost of a new navigational aid. However, the authority runs the chance of increasing its premium.

In other matters, the authority gave approval to engineer Robbie Matesic of Benatec & Associates of Greensburg to assist Wally in writing specs for the installation of a flush ceiling in the airport's main hangar. It appears that birds have done more than take flight in the hanger - they are now building nests in some of the aircraft.

'They own the hangar right now,' tenant Bill Coffman told the board. 'It's just not a nuisance hazard. It's a flight safety hazard.'

Wally said that birds are able to fly into the hangar because its doors are left open. She said the authority has attempted to keep the birds away by placing owl and snake decoys and other methods.

The board also approved a resolution to provide the local match money for various airport improvement projects the authority would like to see funded in the 2001-02 fiscal year.

The 10 identified projects are funded through a $1.5 million grant from federal 2001 Transportation Appropriation; this appropriation was secured by U.S. senators Rick Santorum and Arlen Specter.

Matesic said the pre-application and environmental evaluation forms are due by June 30. She said the authority will either provide a 5 percent match ($129,000) or 10 percent match ($258,000).

Projects identified by the authority include: stormwater management system; drainage and water detention ponds; design of existing access road and main hangar apron; rehabilitate existing access road and main hangar apron; and airport-wide sanitary sewer system.

Authority member Gary Tedesco said the match money can come from $2 million the county commissioners have set aside in their $11.7 million bond issue. Tedesco also said the authority could borrow the funds.

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