Williamsport Regional Airport Authority members gave their blessing Wednesday for a lease agreement allowing a new fixed-base operator to take over services at the former DeGol Jet Center on airport grounds.
The transfer of ownership was detailed to authority members by Marshall Welch III and Dan Klingerman, partners in the new business that will be called Energy Aviation.
Welch said his brother, Scott, who operates a fixed-based operation at an airport in Peoria, Ill., also is a partner in operating the local business and will provide air charter service at the local operation.
Fixed-based operators provide fuel, maintenance, hangar space and flight instruction for general aviation and business clients.
Marshall Welch said the transition from DeGol to Energy Aviation will be purposely noticeable to the public. He said the operation's goal will be to promote the region through services provided at the business.
"We really see the fixed-base operator as the business card of northcentral Pennsylvania," he said.
Marshall said Energy Aviation plans on selling new and used planes and helicopters and offering expanded flight school programs. He said flight school classes would be eligible for student and Veterans Affairs loans.
"We really think there's a fairly large group of people that would like to get a pilot's license," he said.
The business' plan is to generate activity at the airport by providing a range of related services that feed from one another, Marshall added.
Increased activity will lead to more fees generated from takeoffs and landings, he said.
"We think it will increase stability and revenue to the authority, Marshall said.
Authority Chairman Mark Murawski said Energy Aviation's plans are welcomed as a positive move for the airport.
"I'm very excited about what you're proposing," he said.
With a planned new terminal construction and future addition of another commercial airline, Murawski said the business partners' plans "couldn't be better timing."
Authority members also approved spending $6,750 to conduct a true market study that shows where local air travelers decide to fly from. Known as a "leakage" report, the findings will be helpful for a new commercial air service tenant that may decide to locate to the airport, said Thomas J. Hart, authority executive director.
The Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce is contributing another $6,750 for the study, which will be conducted by Sixel Consulting Group, of Eugene, Ore.
"It's an extremely important piece of information that carriers consider," Hart said.
Having the report will get the airport another step closer to bringing on another airline, he said.
"We have an airline that has been asking for a lot of information," Hart said, noting that the airline representative was "excited" about the prospect of locating at the airport in part because of Marcellus Shale activity here.
"Personally, I believe we'll be making an announcement in the second half of next year" about a new airline, he said.