SPRINGFIELD TOWNSHIP – The company that runs Grove City Airport has a new name, a new owner and some new features.
More importantly, as far as the airport’s survival is concerned, it’s thriving.
“We’ve been busier than ever,” Michael Baun said.
Baun owns Grove City Aviation Inc., which operates the airport at 40 Oakley Kelly Drive in Springfield Township. The airport, owned by Grove City borough, covers a few hundred acres near state Route 208.
He took over management of the airport after taking the helm from Silent Wings Soaring Inc., which was owned by Doug Thomas and the late Steve Rhule.
Silent Wings initially offered a glider business and flight lessons and rides. Those services are no longer active, which is why Baun changed the name.
When Thomas and Rhule took over, the airport was fighting for survival. Thanks to their dedication, it’s remained open and continues to be an important community asset. Baun said he’s proud to be a part of it.
“It’s definitely a resource,” he said, looking out over the runway Tuesday afternoon.
The airport rents out hangar space for airplane storage, and most flights are for personal and business use.
STAT MedEvac also rents space for medical helicopters, and Skydive Pennsylvania uses the airport to stage parachute jumps.
Baun learned to fly at Greenville Municipal Airport in Greene Township and has held various jobs in the industry. He also is chief pilot for Buckair, a charter flight company based in Butler.
He’s able to spend quite a bit of time at the Grove City Airport and has been overseeing renovations and upgrades.
Airport management has updated the main hangar and attached building, and Baun said he hopes to build a new hangar near the airport’s main entrance.
He also wants to extend the runway, which would accommodate more traffic and larger aircraft, and offer flight instruction.
“That’s revenue that could be coming into Grove City,” said Baun, a Jackson Center native who lives in Lake Latonka with his wife Chylo.
The airport is also getting some new equipment through a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation grant.
The grant will be used to buy an excavator, mowing equipment, and machinery to moves planes across the property.
The grant requires a 5 percent local match of $41,000. Baun is loaning that money to the borough in lieu of Silient Wings payint rent to the borough over the next 12 to 18 months.
And despite the COVID-19 pandemic, things have been going well. There are flights every day of the week, and Baun credits the airport’s staff with helping things run smoothly.
“They can go in just about anything,” he said of flight crews when asked about dealing with adverse weather conditions.
He hopes that more people recognize the importance of small community airports, some of which have been closing.
Baun said studies show that they help boost the local economy. Grove City Airport serves a diverse clientele, including some people visiting the area to shop or to see their kids at Grove City College.
“We get a lot of people coming in for the outlet mall... We’re flying record numbers every month,” Baun said.
A new website is in the works, and Baun will make sure to hang on to the airport’s memorial plaque for Rhule when the new hangar is built. Rhule was Baun’s boss at Buckair.
“I learned a lot from him,” Baun said.
FOR MORE information about the airport, call 724-748-5530.