Authority signs off on hangar lease agreement

WINTERSVILLE – Pending the prosecutor’s approval, the Jefferson County Airport Authority has leased a 100-foot hangar space to the new Pier Aviation LLC.

Pier Aviation, a partnership between former authority president Mike Menzel and Phil Bender, a former Ohio Highway Patrol aviation operations supervisor and airpark manager, will provide sightseeing service, aircraft rental, flight instruction and aerial photography.

“It’s what we’ve been doing all along,” Menzel said after Monday’s airport authority meeting. “But now, Phil and I are combining to form Pier Aviation.”

Menzel resigned the presidency to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest, “though the way we read it, the Ohio Ethics Commission said there wasn’t one,” he said.

The authority’s new president, Cathy Cucarese, said the prosecutor’s office is working on a standard lease agreement, “but I would assume it’s going to be pretty much the same as” the Pier Aviation lease.

“I’ve said all along, it just depends on the business,” she added. “We will negotiate with each business (showing interest) in renting hangar space. We don’t want to shut ourselves out of any opportunity.”

In other business, the board’s new engineering consultant, Michael Baker Jr. Inc., asked for clarification on the type of aircraft coming in and out of the airport on a regular basis, saying the current master plan designates it as A-1, which means it primarily houses smaller craft, while a review of the 2012 flight operations classifies it as serving larger planes coming to the area as a result of the shale exploration. The higher classification, either B-1 or B-2, allows larger corporate-type aircraft, which justifies the need for longer runway. If board members can justify need to the FAA, it could open to the door to federal funding.

The smaller designation, Baker’s Brad Homan said, “obviously does not meet what you’re doing now” and, since it could impact grant eligibility, should be updated in the master plan.

“We need to get direction from the FAA,” he said. “We need their input on how we should proceed.”

Homan and Project Manager Heather Leopardi also referenced a request dated several years ago for an archeological study to determine impact on a prehistoric village site somewhere nearby the facility. They said they’ll need to be able to tick off that item in the environmental assessment checklist.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever heard of an archeological survey,” Cucarese said. Jefferson County Commissioner Tom Gentile pointed out the area had been heavily strip mined decades ago.

“It may be as simple as figuring out where the site is in relation to the airport,” Homan noted, adding that it’s “a checkbox item that needs to be addressed.”

The board also was alerted that Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 859 has tentatively arranged for a 1929 Ford Tri-Motor plane to be at the airport. Details should be available at the April meeting.