Plans advancing for multimillion dollar Wyoming Valley Airport update

Luzerne County Council is expected to vote next month on the selection of Delta Airport Consultants Inc. to handle engineering and planning for a multimillion dollar overhaul at the Wyoming Valley Airport in Forty Fort and Wyoming.

Council had earmarked $6 million in federal American Rescue Plan funding for capital improvements at the 110-acre, county-owned complex, and additional government aviation funding is available, officials said.

Following a request-for-qualifications, an administration committee recommended Delta.

Katherine Conlon, a professional engineer at Delta who would serve as project manager here, spoke about the company’s approach and expertise during a recent council work session presentation.

Delta focuses solely on airport consulting and engineering and is not a conglomerate, Conlon told council.

“We are about 75 people, and we live and breathe airports,” she said.

Employees at the company, which just celebrated its 45th anniversary, are “aviation enthusiasts who plan, design and understand airports,” she said.

“First and foremost, we love airplanes. We love flying. That’s what makes us so passionate about what we do.”

The company is actively involved in industry leadership roles, she said, citing an example of its involvement in writing a standard guidebook on general aviation facility planning.

“So we literally wrote the book on what we’re going to do for your airport,” Conlon said.

Headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, Delta has an office in Harrisburg that would handle the local airport project, Conlon said. She displayed a map dotted with Pennsylvania airports that have retained Delta’s services, inviting the county to call any of them for feedback.

“We did,” replied county Manager Romilda Crocamo.

Delta already has experience working with airport regulatory entities that oversee this region, which will make it a “seamless transition,” Conlon said.

Briefing council on the primary Delta team assigned to this project, Conlon said engineer David W. Jones will be the principal in charge.

A pilot, Jones will personally test the Wyoming Valley Airport runway once the engagement is approved, she said.

Delta also will help the county navigate the state’s block grant funding for airports to maximize the money it receives, she said.

Conlon commended council for allocating $6 million for updates, recognizing local airports are a community asset.

A thick master plan the county completed in 2020 included recommendations for taxiway and apron alterations, improved lighting, a turf runway resolution and new hangars that would address a demand for storage space.

If selected, Delta would develop a plan to identify what projects can be completed along with a schedule and costs, she said.

County Grants Writer Michele Sparich told council its approval would be for a master engagement agreement.

Because some funding will come from the Bureau of Aviation through the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, each task will have an agreement with specified fees, Sparich said.

Council Chairman John Lombardo credited Council Vice Chairman Brian Thornton and Councilman Kevin Lescavage for spearheading the push to invest in the project and Crocamo for supporting and advancing the initiative.

“I was very impressed with the presentation and am looking forward to seeing those projects get off the ground — pun intended,” Lombardo said.

Lescavage has cited the airport’s busy pilot training program that addresses a pilot shortage and the facility’s value to medevac helicopters and state police aircraft that regularly land there to fuel up without delays they encounter elsewhere. He also believes the county can maximize use of the facility beyond aviation, once mentioning an idea for Saturday night drag races with food trucks.

Thornton told his council colleagues the county had not allocated funding for airport projects in decades.

The county acquired the airport in the 1940s.

“There are many improvements sorely needed. There are things there that are not in compliance with the Federal Aviation Administration safety-wise, and we’re trying to improve that,” Thornton said.

In addition to improving the runways, lighting, safety and fueling areas, the project will tear down old hangars that are “falling down and rusted” and “too small for today’s airplanes,” he said.

Valley Aviation Inc., the airport’s longtime fixed base operator, routinely receives inquiries from pilots and companies interested in parking their planes there if space becomes available, he said.

“There’s an end game here,” he said. “There’s an awful lot of good to be had out of that airport. It’s a hidden gem, a diamond in the rough so to speak, but it could boost our local economy tremendously when these projects are completed.”

Crocamo told council the airport will be “top-notch” when the work is completed.

“This project is something I think is really going to change not only the area where the Wyoming Valley Airport is, but the whole county,” she said.

Council plans to vote on the Delta engagement at its next meeting May 14.

The county also owns an office building — the West Side Annex — near the airport complex along Route 11, and Forty Fort manages the county’s adjacent 35-acre sports complex as part of an overall plan to make the borough a recreation center.

In addition, the county has remodeled the nearby former Air Reserve Center in an environmentally-conscious way to house the county recycling department and operational services division— a project covered by years of saving excess landfill fees and grant funding. The county had taken possession of the vacant property around 2019.

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.


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