IMPROVEMENTS TAKING OFF; AIRPORT BUILDING NEW HANGAR; MORE PROJECTS IN WORKS

Lighted wind socks may not sound like a big deal, and working electrical outlets may seem kind of basic. But for users of the Oswego County Airport, these are improvements, part of an effort to make the county-owned airport a better place to...


Lighted wind socks may not sound like a big deal, and working electrical outlets may seem kind of basic.

But for users of the Oswego County Airport, these are improvements, part of an effort to make the county-owned airport a better place to fly.

For those who don't fly, the most visible improvement might be the brick-red steel framework on the north side of the airport driveway. As fall progresses, the frame will be covered with steel and become the first new hangar at the airport in more than a decade, according to Bruce Bisbo, the airport manager.

The hangar will house up to 10 planes and cost $510,000, Bisbo said. Construction didn't begin until 10 pilots had put down $500 deposits to show they were earnest about renting slots from the county at $200 a month.

The new airplane bays will look like the neighboring old ones, Bisbo pointed out, but the new building will have a bathroom - something required under building codes.

The new building will have power outlets for each plane. To keep things fair, Bisbo said electricity is being restored at the older hangar. All the outlets will have limits on how much electricity can be drawn. That, he said, is to avoid the abuse that caused the county to shut down outlets in the past.

Much of the work on the airport is paid for with federal money, grants from the Federal Aviation Administration. Work that cleared the end of one runway, making it safer in the event a plane overshoots, was 95 percent covered by federal money, 2.5 percent with state money and 2.5 percent with county money, he said.

Bisbo hopes more such funding is available for more work, including a new terminal he has tentatively scheduled to be built in 2011. That building could cost $1 million, he said.

Making the airport more usable makes sense for the county, Bisbo said, because more planes mean more fuel sales. The county makes 85 to 90 cents a gallon on 100 octane aviation gas and $1.05 a gallon on jet fuel, minus state sales tax, Bisbo said. "We do have to pay all the taxes," he said.

In 2006, the airport sold 43,530 gallons of aviation gas and 23,449 gallons of jet fuel.

The restaurant at the airport is another pending improvement, Bisbo said. It shut down earlier this year when the former operator decided to give up the business. Airport traffic dropped 20 percent, he said. (Pilots, Bisbo said, fly in for a cup of coffee and a chance to catch up with other pilots.)

Mathew Mulcahey, the 24-year-old proprietor of Kerfien's Fish Fry in Scriba, is leasing the space at $100 a month. He plans to begin operating Kerfien's Cafe Nov. 1, Mulcahey said. He plans on serving breakfast, lunch and, on Fridays, dinner.

A hundred dollars a month and $1 a gallon are not the only economic impacts the airport provides, Bisbo said, sharing a copy of a state report on the benefits of aviation. According to the report, the county airport supports more than 120 jobs and has an annual economic impact of more than $7 million.

The impact can be seen more clearly some days than others. While single-engine propeller planes are the most regular visitors, earlier this year five corporate jets sat lined up outside the terminal as pilots waited for executives to return from a meeting at one of the area's nuclear power plants.

Contact Charles McChesney at cmcchesney@syracuse.com or 592-7140.

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