Longer Runway May Bring More Business, Not Bigger Planes, to Butler County Airport

Though no one could have predicted it a decade ago when the Butler County Airport Authority board began contemplating a runway extension, the dynamics of air travel in the Pittsburgh region have changed because of the one-two punch of the Sept. 11, 2001...

Air taxi is a new concept and one that Mr. Kennihan is hoping to capitalize on in a big way. The idea is to use small aircraft more frequently.

"It used to be that companies were nervous with smaller airplanes and single engines. Companies wanted to use two-engine aircraft,'' he said. Enter the Cirrus SR22, which has a single engine and seats four but is equipped with parachutes that can be released to bring the plane to ground should an emergency arise with the single engine.

Mr. Kennihan said he believes the safety measure may give a company the peace of mind to book a charter on the smaller plane for two or three people and less money. "It's not as expensive as flying [an eight-seater aircraft]," he said.

"The runway being extended gives us a solid platform to build from,'' he said.

And he has big plans: Currently in Mr. Kennihan's fleet are two eight-passenger King Air 200s; a cabin-class twin Navajo that can seat six; and five Cirrus Design SR22, which seat three passengers. He also owns about a dozen flight school planes that are not used for charter or air taxi service.

He plans to buy about 20 more Cirrus SR22s over the next two years. "This is the future!'' he said.

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