A local man with more than a decade of military service and a background in business is Venango Regional Airport’s new leader.
Bill Buchna, of Sugarcreek, was hired for the post in August and trained with outgoing manager OC Bell. Bell’s last day was Friday.
Buchna was already a Venango County employee, working in a housing-related department, before earning the airport manager job.
He spent six years in the Air Force, then, after a 10-year break, joined the Army. He’s been in the Army for 7 1/2 years and is a logistics officer. In 2012-13, he served his country in Kuwait.
Venango County Board of Commissioners Chairman Timothy S. Brooks said the county became familiar with Buchna through his other county positions, and that his business and military background will serve him well as airport manager.
Brooks said the county expects business to continue without interruption as the transition is made.
“We expect no drop-off of service,” said the commissioner, and continued improvements at the airport with Buchna leading the way.
“He can never replace OC, but will leave his own mark on the airport because of his previous experiences and unique skill set,” Brooks added.
Buchna’s weeks spent working alongside Bell have provided him with invaluable knowledge, and there’s certainly a great deal to learn on many levels, from airport customer service, to airport funding. (If you missed our article on Bell’s tenure, check out Friday’s edition, or visit titusvilleherald.com.)
Buchna said he has a business background and is prepared to build on the “culture of customer service” that his predecessor cultivated at the local airport.
He said the biggest challenge he’s facing is learning all of the technical aspects of an airport and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations.
Bell, who served as the airport’s manager for 13 years, communicated to Buchna two specific goals for the airport in the coming years. The outgoing manager wants Buchna to keep with FAA recommendations and have a fire station constructed at the airport, as well as a snow removal equipment storage area.
Another project Bell emphasized as a priority is taking the airport runway from 5,200 feet to 5,900 feet, allowing larger, corporate aircraft to land under almost any conditions.
The eight-person airport has two runways.
On the eve of taking over the airport, Thursday, Buchna told The Herald he was grateful for the opportunity. He said he’s ready to get to work “positioning the airport to drive growth in the community.”
He is particularly excited about the airport’s regular flights to Harrisburg, which will start next month.
Southern Airways Express offers daily flights connecting in Pittsburgh.
To learn more about the airport’s flights, visit the website iflysouthern.com.
Ruggiero can be reached by email at email@example.com.