JENKINS TWP. — Carl Beardsley, executive director at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport, said one of the first airlines to fly out of the airport was Colonial Airlines.
Before you think that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin were catching flights to the 13 original colonies, know that Beardsley was delivering his remarks at the airport’s 70th anniversary party.
“Does anybody here remember Colonial Airlines?” Beardsley asked Thursday.
Nobody admitted knowing anything about the airport’s first years of operation, but Beardsley said since those humble beginnings, the airport has been the region’s gateway to the world and the global marketplace.
“It’s a positive first impression for visitors and a strong economic driver,” Beardsley said. “In fact, AVP (the local airport’s code) offers more than a $300 million economic impact on the community.”
From those early years of Colonial servicing Buffalo and Syracuse in New York, travelers now can book flights to Chicago, Newark, Detroit, Atlanta, Charlotte, Philadelphia, Tampa/St. Petersburg and Orlando.
“The hub airports give us convenient access to the world with only one stop,” Beardsley said.
He also noted the airport is bringing back its air show, set for Aug. 12-13.
Now in his second year as executive director, Beardsley credited his predecessor, Barry Centini, for 41 years of service to the airport — 30 as executive director — highlighted by the $42 million, 130,000 square-foot terminal project completed in 2006.
“I’m proud to have been a part of this airport for so many years,” Centini said. “And I am certain the airport will be around for many years into the future.”
During the airport board meeting that followed the anniversary celebration, Beardsley noted May was the best month in history for passenger travel — 24,088 to be exact, a 17.5 percent increase over May 2016.
Beardsley said additional flights to Charlotte by American Airlines and Allegiant Airlines’ twice-weekly flights to Tampa/St. Petersburg are the main reasons for the significant increase.
Also Thursday, the board awarded an $8 million contract to Popple Construction of Laflin for the rehabilitation of two taxiways.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.