A project to rehabilitate the general aviation areas of University Park Airport saw the increase of Federal Aviation Administration funds from a grant of $992,000 to $3.3 million.
The money was awarded Sept. 4 from FAA discretionary funds and airport entitlement funds.
“This increase will allow us to do more of the project,” said Bryan Rodgers, airport director. “We are looking to upgrade the general aviation apron to meet FAA design standards.”
The project will include the extension of taxiways called Bravo and Delta. The total cost of the project is expected to be $8.5 million.
The project is expected to improve the airport’s ability to accommodate more business from private aircraft. The project will also include additional parking, an access road and ramps.
“It will also allow for hangar development to house planes at the facility,” Rodgers said. “The work is consistent with the airport’s master plan.”
The facility improvements will meet the rising demands of aircraft owners and passengers.
There are currently 64 aircraft based at the University Park Airport, with Penn State University serving as the fixed-based operator, providing fuel sales and service.
A first-class airport is critical to the future of economic development in the Centre County region.
Operating from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., UP Airport airport sees between 38,000 and 40,000 flight operations each year. “Two-thirds of those — counted by the control tower — are general aviation, with the airlines accounting for one-third,” Rodgers said.
By developing areas of the airport, the management will seek growth of hangar space and more planes based there. “This project allows us to accommodate commercial needs should they present themselves to us,” said Rodgers. “We have very good commercial service for our size.”
Still, the airport needs to be improved in order to meet future economic development. “We work very closely with the Visitors and Convention Bureau to raise awareness about the airport,” said Rodgers.
Currently, University Park Airport has a runway that is 6,701 feet long and 150 feet wide. “We can handle Boeing 737s and 757s,” Rodgers noted.
There is a 20-year plan in place to upgrade the airport. But in the short term, there is a need to modernize the Aircraft and Rescue and Fire Fighting Building. “It has lasted beyond its expiration date,” said Rodgers.
There is the potential to expand the runway by about 1,500 feet, and this may become necessary if the staff is able to convince an air carrier to begin direct flights from University Park to Orlando. “Orlando has been on our short list for some time. Of course, our first priority is to retain what we have.”
Rodgers said it is important for the airport to put its best foot forward. “For many, we are the welcome mat to Happy Valley,” he said. “We are the first, and last, impression.”
There are currently 42 employees at University Park Airport, not counting employees of airlines and Federal Express. The airport provides a $203.8 million economic impact to the local area.