Longer Runway for Butler County Airport in Penn.

Officials of the Butler County Airport marked the completion last weekend of a runway extension that was 11 years in the making.

The $4.5 million project to add 800 feet to the 4,005-foot runway began in April.

The project was finished in August and marked with a celebration Sept. 29-30 to coincide with the 77th anniversary of the 309-acre airport off Airport Road in Penn.

Though the longer runway will not accommodate bigger aircraft, aviation experts have said it will attract more aircraft because they can fly more efficiently. The thinking is that a longer runway is safer. Most of the aircraft using the airport carry three to eight passengers.

The airport was a private facility when it opened in 1929 .

Envisioned at the time as the main commercial airport for the Pittsburgh business community, the facility originally was owned by a group of Allegheny County businessmen. Commercial pilots were trained there, including Amelia Earhart in 1930. Even the famed aviator Charles Lindbergh stored one of his planes there. But the airport's importance was diminished when the Allegheny County Airport opened in 1931.

Throughout the years, though, the Butler County Airport has remained a vital link to the aviation world. Owned by the Butler County Airport Authority since 1980, it has a $299,000 budget, two major hangars, an administration building and a taxiway.

The runway extension allows aircraft to land without weight restrictions, said Sharon Daboin, state deputy secretary of transportation, who was keynote speaker for the Sept. 29 celebration.

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