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All Clear for Takeoff

The big news this past week from the Williamsport Regional Airport was there would soon be commercial flights touching down in Montoursville. There have been no commercial airlines going wheels up out of the airport since 2021. There has been a lot of money, construction, and effort put into the facility. Believe me, I’ve heard all about it in the past week, as well as criticism about almost every aspect of the deal between Southern Airways and the Williamsport Regional Airport Authority.

First, let me clarify that the Williamsport Regional Airport is its own entity, not owned by the county. I think there’s a little confusion because several individuals I spoke with believed the county-owned and controlled the facility. The airport is managed by the Williamsport Regional Airport Authority, of which Mr. Frank Pellegrino is the chairman, and Mr. Richard Howell is the executive director.

Our elected county, state, and federal representatives work with the authority to obtain funding when available to make the airport the best and safest facility it can be.
Obviously, for business, industry, and tourism, an airport is a necessity in the Williamsport area. Private air service has been available, but a commercial airline service is a must and an important selling point for the Chamber of Commerce to create new opportunities.

Southern Airways Express, which may not be as well-known as other commercial airlines, was the first to actually come to an agreement and shake hands with the Williamsport Regional Airport Authority. They will begin to offer ten 9-passenger flights per week beginning in May. The flights will take passengers from Williamsport Regional to Washington’s Dulles International, where they can continue with their next leg of travel.

So, this is where I hand you a pair of those heavy aviation earmuffs to block out all the negative noise you may have heard. I am going to apply the “every journey begins with the first step” philosophy, or maybe, in this case, first flight.

Let’s give this an opportunity to succeed before creating negativity and judgment. And for the good of our community, let’s hope it’s a beginning. I can guarantee you that if this is successful, more flights, landing points, and larger planes will soon follow.

Thank you to Southern Airways and Chief Commercial Officer Mark Cestari for making this happen. With the current economic conditions around our Nation, they are willing to invest time, pilots, and aircraft to Williamsport Regional Airport. Yes, I know potential earning is always the driving factor, but in this case, they’ve bellied up to the runway to provide this opportunity.

I believe Richard Howell and Frank Pellegrino also deserve a tip of the Webb Weekly cap with the American Flag on the side. As I followed this situation from afar, it became obvious the pressure was mounting to make something happen, and they did just that.

Two other factors that are a definite positive that often get overlooked are the benefit to the Pennsylvania College of Technology and Avco/Lycoming Engines for the workforce development and educational opportunities this provides. I’m a big believer in made, taught, and maintained in America, especially when America is the greater Williamsport area.

The second is this continues the providing of TSA service at the Williamsport Regional Airport. Which, from the way I understand it, this service is very difficult to have reinstated if lost. Which is like many things in today’s government-funded economic world, if it moves somewhere else or the funding is lost, it’s always tougher to get it back.
I will have more on the takeoff at IPT as we get closer to May. I have always liked going down to the airport and checking things out. Please remember this is a progress at work.

You’re more than welcome to reach out to me with your thoughts on any of my columns; my contact info is always on page 4. I do have a question that I’m looking for an answer to, and it involves gasoline, not aviation fuel. The only thing I ask regarding this is it’s a hard fact, not hearsay, if you reach out to me. This may require someone who works directly in the petroleum industry.

Why, if I drive over the mountain, does gas become cheaper, beginning with 3.09 at Snappy’s and 2.99 at Weaver’s in Allenwood? As you go down the road a little farther to Lewisburg, i-Fuel has it at 2.91, and Sheetz sits at 2.94. These prices are obviously at press time on Friday, and I just paid 3.37 at 7-Eleven up the street from my office. If you have hard facts, please let me know.

Let’s all be safe out there, and if you’re heading down that way, save a few bucks on filling your tank.

God Bless America.

Jim Webb