Written by Ellen Hoffman
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 13:31
Looking for a uniquely different adventure this summer? Historic Forty Fort Airport meets the challenge with affordable plane rides and flying lessons for all ages and attitudes.
The Forty Fort Airport first opened in July, 1923 to meet a need for military travel. Notably, Martz Trailways had the first aircraft fly from the facility. Since those times, the airport has grown into a venue for private pilots and general aviation needs. Scenic plane rides are a staple at the largest flight school in Northeastern Pennsylvania. A good number of Forty Fort’s graduates now fly for major airlines such as US Airways.
Today, the airport belongs to Luzerne County, but the Scorbola family leases and operates the facility. Manager Rob Semyon credits the family’s passion for aviation for its continued active involvement.
“They do it for a passion for flying,” Semyon said. “I don’t think to them it’s about making money because they invested a lot more here. It’s basically just a passion, an enjoyment or hobby for them.”
Everyone who works at or visits the airport has a passion for flying, including 16-year-old Andy Crossin, who takes flight lessons.
“People should come to the airport, especially if they are interested in flying,” he said. “Everyone makes you feel like you have known them forever. It’s important to experience the excitement of taking off and going thousands of feet up in the air and talking to other pilots.”
Crossin started taking lessons in September, 2011, and has logged 15 hours in the air. He is counting down the hours until he is able to take a solo flight and eventually earn his pilot’s license.
One thing Crossin loves about taking lessons at the Forty Fort Airport is that he is in control of the plane right from the start. Instructors take students out on their first day and give them control of the plane. After learning the gears and controls of the aircraft, students take a seat in the pilot’s spot and actually fly the airplane with their instructor.
“It gives you a hands-on feel and lets you decide if flying is for you or not,” Semyon explained. “And, 99% of the time you’re hooked.”
Lessons can start as early as age 14. At 16, students can take a solo flight and, by 17, they can test for a license. In order to obtain a pilot’s license, a minimum of 40 hours needs to be logged– 20 with an instructor and 20 on solo flights. There is also a written test similar to a driver’s license exam, with practical as well as oral sections.
Flight instructor Rick Harowicz encourages everyone to come out and give flying a try if it is something that interests them. He agrees with Semyon that students get hooked right from the start.
“Generally, the public is afraid of getting in the plane and going for a ride,” Harowicz noted. “But once we actually get them on board and show them how easy and fun it is, then they’re hooked and they just continuously keep coming back.”
One way the airport works to get the community involved and interested in aircraft is its annual Airport Days, the busiest days of the year at the Forty Fort Airport. It offers low-cost rides in different aircrafts, including a World War II plane. Planes fly from sunrise to sunset, with rides lasting 15 to 20 minutes.
“We do it so that the community can see what we do and the services that we offer,” Harowicz said. “We give them a little taste of what it’s like to be inside the airplane.”
Airport Days will be celebrated this year on July 14th.
Other programs and organizations like Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, and even daycare center groups come to the airport for tours and to learn about its history. It has even hosted children’s birthday parties.
“We jump at the opportunities because it’s for the kids,” Semyon said. “It’s also a way to get others involved.”
Even high school aviation clubs have been formed through clients, including Crestwood High School and Wyoming Seminary Preparatory School.
Semyon knows there is a large interest in flying in NEPA and he encourages everyone to come out and learn more about it.
“There’s a lot of interest out there for a hobby that many think is expensive, but it’s really not,” he said. “It’s very enjoyable, it’s relaxing – like going for a Sunday drive, but you’re in the air.”
Learn more about the Forty Fort Airport at www.ValleyAviation.com.