PITTSTON TWP. — The idea to bring an air show back to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport took off Thursday when the governing bi-county board board unanimously approved a motion directing the administrative staff to look into it.
Lackawanna County Commissioner Corey O’Brien, after giving an impassioned speech on all the region has to offer — minor league baseball and hockey, large concert venues, golf courses, festivals and casinos — asked that a study be done to return the air show in 2015. O’Brien said the event doesn’t have to be held annually and could just be held every other year or every three years.
“Instead of thinking why we can’t do things, let’s start thinking of ways we can,” O’Brien said.
The airport last hosted an air show in 2000, said Barry Centini, director. That was just before the airport underwent a massive renovation project.
“We have to see if logistically we can handle it,” he said. “We have a totally different airport now. Parking, for instance, could be a major issue.”
Centini said the airport hosted 18 air shows. Some were profitable, he said, and others lost money. He said the airport would have to come up with about $300,000 up front, but O’Brien said he is hopeful corporate sponsors would offset the cost.
O’Brien noted the Lehigh Valley airport hosted an air show and had several major sponsors.
“If Lehigh Valley can do this, we certainly can,” he said. “It will take time and effort, I realize that. But the people of this region look forward to it and they will support it.”
O’Brien said parking areas can be designated off the airport side “within one exit off I-81” and the airport can find a partner to offer transportation back and forth.
Lackawanna County Commissioner Patrick O’Malley suggested to start small and grow the event.
“It’s a great way for us to showcase our new airport,” he said.
With that, O’Brien made a motion to direct Centini and the airports staff to review the possibility of hosting an air show in 2015. O’Brien, O’Malley and Luzerne County members Tim McGinley, Rick Williams and Robert Lawton approved the action.
Centini cautioned the board it may prove difficult to find sponsors to cover most of the costs of an air show.
“We’ll contact some companies that manage these events and see what they think about having one at this site,” he said. “The configuration of the airport is totally different than it was in 2000.”
Centini said the air show was discontinued when major construction projects began, including the addition of a new terminal building, a parking expansion, new air traffic control tower and a roadway expansion project. He noted that in the 18 years, the air shows grossed about $500,000.
Centini said military fliers such as the Navy’s Blue Angels and Air Force Thunderbirds have also scaled back because of federal budget cuts. Without military aircraft to draw fans, Centini said, the shows would struggle.