Recently, a consulting firm presented an "Airport Layout Plan and Narrative Report" for the Jake Arner Memorial Airport - sometimes called the Carbon County Airport - in Mahoning Township.

The purpose of the report was to present an overview of the airport and offer recommendations for five, 10, and 20 year improvements.

There weren't a lot of recommendations. Among them are to remove some brush, add a business hangar, make more hangar space available by constructing a storage facility for tools and equipment now stored in a hangar, and increase community awareness.

There was one more suggestion: Increase the size of the runway.

Adding 425 feet to the runway would not require the airport to acquire additional property.

What it would do is allow the airport to accommodate slightly larger aircraft such as the Citation, a very light, twin-engine jet that many corporations use.

A Citation can currently land at the airport, but not at full bulk. In other words, it can't have a full passenger load or full fuel tanks or the runway is too short to handle it.

Airport officials said that extending the runway would make the airport more inviting to firms which potentially consider locating in the region. By being able to land corporate planes at bulk load, it could give the county an advantage for luring such companies.

While no specific plans currently exist for the runway expansion, hopefully such a project can commence in the near future.

The airport is a vital element to the hopeful growth of the local economy. Although airports exist in Allentown and Hazleton, having an airport locally is a good selling point to perspective businesses and industries.

There are more positives to the airport than for merely holding hope.

The airport offers:

Ÿ Training opportunities for pilots. For generations, individuals have learned to fly at the Arner Memorial Airport and have emerged to great careers including commercial jet pilots, military leaders, and corporate officials.

Ÿ The airport offers scenic rides which aids in tourist attraction.

Although the Fall season is the most popular for the scenic rides, the flights over Carbon County can be taken at virtually any time of the year.

Ÿ The airport is home to PennStar helicopter. Because of this, there is a crew on stand-by virtually all the time for critical care transport to trauma centers, burn facilities, or any other location where medical treatment is needed.

Ÿ Not every county has its own airport like Carbon County does. It's important to realize what an important asset the facility is.

Looking back on the recommendations is that increasing community awareness should be a priority. We agree and hopefully this will be one of the projects pursued by the Carbon County Airport Authority and airport officials.

Without community awareness, the public forms doubts about the usefulness of the facility.

Any growth that comes to Carbon County in the form of industry or economic development likely will rely on the local airport.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com [1]