July 20, 2009


Airport opens up its hangar doors to public

Planes on display, airplane rides offered at the 2nd annual Air Fest at county airport

Air fest

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Mark Turnbull and his son Troy, 6, of Cortland look at the controls and gauges of a Zenith CH701 single prop airplane Saturday at Cortland County Airport’s Air Fest.

Staff Reporter

Buzzing 2,400 feet above the ground Saturday, a single engine Cherokee 140 airplane carried three passengers while pilot Pat McGarrity pointed out landmarks below.
At that height, cows were reduced to black and white spots speckling the green landscape and the passengers had to communicate over headsets above the whir of the plane.
The airplane ride was one of many McGarrity, a flight instructor in Syracuse, gave Saturday at the Cortland County Air Fest.
This was the second year the Air Fest was held, an event intended to introduce the public to the Cortland County Airport.
The plane McGarrity was flying is owned by Jim Spaller, who operates 7:47 aviation, a flight school at the airport.
“I have always loved airplanes my whole life. You get to see the world where most people don’t see,” McGarrity said after landing.
The event drew many airplane enthusiasts as well as those residents who just wanted to know more about what the airport has to offer.
“I love airplanes,” said Cortland resident Mark Turnbull, who came with his 6-year-old son Troy to admire the fleet of about 25 that was on display at the airport for the occasion.
Turnbull said he wanted to see up close, the planes that fly over his house regularly.
Pointing to a twin-engine corporate plane owned by McNeil Development Corp., Turnbull said when it flies over his house it is like a Ferrari going by.
The plane, which seats seven, has a pressurized cabin and passengers can safely fly at heights of up to 41,000 feet. McNeil Development uses the plane to fly around the country on business trips as needed. This real estate company owns and manages commercial property and leases office, retail and industrial spaces.
The airport currently has 42 planes in seven hangars of varying size. The owners of the airplanes primarily use them for business purposes, said county Deputy Highway Superintendent Bob Buerkle. The county operates the airport, which turned a profit in 2008.
About half of the airplanes that were displayed Saturday were owned by people who keep them in hangars at the airport permanently, said Buerkle. The rest were displayed by pilots from outlying areas like a 1955 Cessna 180 that is equipped with pontoons so it can to land on water and is owned by a Skanaeteles pilot.
Buerkle said that besides the flight school, an aircraft maintenance business owned by David Jones operates at the airport. He said the airport is a valuable resource for tourism and business in the county.
Pat Snyder, a member of the Cortland County Aviators, the club that planned the Air Fest, owns a Maule high performance short take-off and landing tail dragger airplane, which was on display Saturday.
Cyndi Koolakian was admiring Snyder’s airplane and pointed to the tail that is lower than the rest of the body, explaining the plane’s name.
“I’m scared of commercial planes and I don’t mind this because you see everything and you go up nice and fast and you land fast. It’s been very enjoyable so far,” Koolakian said of the flights she has taken with Snyder.
Cortland resident Martha Poole came to the airport because she saw signs for the event and wanted to see what the occasion was all about.
“It’s a matter of seeing what is offered here. We have an interest in the airport and what the services are, we hear the planes taking off from our house,” said Poole as she stood with her husband Bill, observing the fleet.
A unique feature of this year’s Air Fest was that six children from Camp Good Days, a pediatric cancer camp on Cayuga Lake, got a free plane ride on the McNeil jet.
“It was a phenomenal day. They all got to fly and tell me what little kid doesn’t like to be around airplanes. It was a wonderful ride,” said Robin Sharpless, the parent of a child who attended the camp.


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