Lock Haven Looking At Selling Piper Birthplace


The future of Lock Haven’s William T. Piper Memorial Airport, former home of Piper Aircraft Corporation, is up in the air as the city grapples with selling the facility.

Despite an economic impact of more than $13 million, the City of Lock Haven says the airport is not making the city enough money to justify continued operation by the city. City Manager Greg Wilson indicated that the finances generated by the airport do not return to the city, but rather remain with businesses on the field or others nearby who profit from transient aircraft.

Wilson said the city does not intend to sell the airport for non-aviation purposes and suggested businesses collaborate to buy the airport and oversee its operations.

However, airport advocates are holding out hope the city will reconsider given the airport’s history and its importance to the community. As the birthplace of the iconic Piper Cub, the aircraft manufacturer called the airport home from 1937-1984. While Piper’s factory production has since moved to Florida, the airport continues to pay tribute to its historic past with a museum dedicated to preserving its legacy located adjacent to the airport.

During a recent meeting on the matter, Ron Dremel, president of the Piper Aviation Museum, which sees 2,500-3,000 annual visitors, said the airport is an important community resource. “This isn’t just a place for some rich playboys to have their expensive toys. Most of us are just middle-class people. I own 50 percent of an airplane that doesn’t cost more than my friends have invested in their Harley Davidsons. We’re just middle-class people that like to fly. Economically, this airport is just a tremendous asset.”

The airport averages 48 operations per day—63 percent being local, 34 percent transient and 1 percent military. As the only public airport in Clinton County, local tenants say the airport is vital for pilot training, a reliever for emergency flights and instrumental in the case of natural disasters. Additionally, the airport is home to nine aviation businesses including maintenance services, aircraft brokerage, avionics sales and flight training.

Amelia Walsh
Amelia Walsh is a private pilot who enjoys flying her family’s Columbia 350. She is based in Colorado and loves all things outdoors including skiing, hiking, and camping.

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  1. If every municipality operating a GA airport used “making enough money” as the sole criterion for continuing ownership I think the rest of us less-than-rich-playboy aviators would be in trouble. (Like the old adage says: How do you make a small fortune in aviation…you start with a large fortune.) An unfortunately typical short-sighted assessment of the benefits of general aviation by the Lock Haven city management.

    • Even worse when they say things like “City Manager Greg Wilson indicated that the finances generated by the airport do not return to the city, but rather remain with businesses on the field or others nearby who profit from transient aircraft”. So, do those businesses not pay taxes to the city or employ local people who then put more money back into the city?

  2. Gary, that jumped out at me too. What, do all profits go to an overseas account? I’m betting that if a fair study were done that they would find that MOST of the revenue stays local in a myriad of ways. What they WANT to say is that they can’t control the funds for their own use, but know that isn’t good politics!

  3. With an attitude like that of the City, it’s easy to see why Piper decamped to Florida!

    Would any NON-aviation business want to look at locating in Lock Haven, with that attitude? The attitude seems to be “People are not paying the City enough to live here.”

    Perhaps the City should consider removing the streets and highway access–but only the entrance side of the road, as it isn’t being used. Leave the exit side open–it will get plenty of use!

  4. I suspect that in this case the direct costs to the city to run the airport (utilities, maintenance, salaries of employees, etc.) are not being met by the direct revenue to the city for running the airport (hangar or FBO lease income, fuel fees, etc). I think lots of smaller airports are perceived as being in the red on the balance sheets. Sometimes, though, a close look at how the city’s expenses are allocated show that unrelated costs are charged against the airport that make the balance sheet look worse.

    • That’s probably the case, but at others pointed out, the same applies for roads and other public infrastructure, and all mass transit. None of them directly self-fund, but without them, secondary sources of income would be reduced.

  5. Let us not forget Meigs field. An airport that got ripped up in the middle of the night and never offered up for sale. Guess an empty field generates more income than an active airport does….

  6. “…airport averages 48 operations per day..”

    For conservation assuming all ops are day time, that’s four flights per hour in 12 hours.

    That’s pretty light traffic. Easy to see perhaps why fees from fuel flow and sales tax is light.

    My local GA airport averages 165 flights a day.

  7. Most City Managers do understand taxes and even the multiplier factor. Sounds like it is a financial loss to the city no matter how one calculates it. On the other hand if a big developer…

  8. One shopping mall built on top of what ” was the Loch Haven William T. Piper Memorial Aiport ” will give the bean counter Greg Wilson, all the line item revenue that his little heart might desire. Another land grab by developers.
    Despite the politicians saying now that they aren’t contemplating a non aviation land use for the property.