September 11, 2008

Aircraft Repair Business Doing Well at Unity Site

By AJ Panian

Though he admits America's economy has people scaling back, Dave Ziegenfus says he feels great about how his business -- Aero Innovations Inc. -- has fared since relocating in May to Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Unity.

"Like everybody, we're not doing the same business we did two years ago. But we're here, we're open for business, and we're doing well," Ziegenfus said during Tuesday's meeting of the Westmoreland County Airport Authority board.

The 11-year-old company provides aircraft and maintenance management, structural repair, engine and airframe modifications and repairs, annual inspections, detailing, and other aircraft maintenance services for piston aircraft and corporate-type light jets.

"We pretty much have aircrafts in our shop all the time, we're always busy. So far, it has been mostly returning clientele, customers that I have been servicing over the years. But I have had new customers from the airport. Basically, I think nobody really knows we're here yet," Ziegenfus said.

Since 2000, the company operated out of a large multi-tenant hangar at Rostraver Airport while providing mobile maintenance services to several airports in the area, including Indiana County's Jimmy Stewart Airport, the Allegheny County Airport, Greater Pittsburgh International Airport and Joseph A. Hardy-Connellsville Airport.

In March, the authority approved a limited fixed-base operator agreement with Aero Innovations effective until Dec. 31, 2012, with a five-year option.

The company operates in a hangar measuring 4,000 square feet and another 3,500-square-foot hangar at the airfield's southern end. The company has since built an office and craft parts area. The authority installed an interior entryway to connect the two hangars.

Ziegenfus is a 1976 graduate of Greater Latrobe High School.

"It's refreshing to have a hometown guy do well on the field," said Executive Director Gabe Monzo. "And this service helps broaden the spectrum to better meet the needs of our general aviation community."

Officials of start-up NorthEast Avionics Inc. of Rostraver plan to meet with the authority later this month to discuss the possibility of renting space for a service station at Arnold Palmer Regional.

In other business, the authority authorized the placement of two recycling bins for cans, plastics and paper on Arnold Palmer Regional grounds for use by Unity residents as part of the Westmoreland Cleanways single-stream recycling program.

The authority held a moment of silence for John H. "Jack" Haber, 78, of Pittsburgh's Shadyside section, who was killed Aug. 31 when his twin-engine Cessna airplane crashed north of Delmont. Haber housed his craft for years at Arnold Palmer Regional.

"We'll all remember Jack gathering around Hangar 33 with other pilots on Sunday mornings. He will be missed," said board Chairman Anthony Ferrante.

(c) 2008 Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.