The Zelienople Airport is a public, general aviation facility owned and operated by the Zelienople Airport Authority (ZAA). See the Management section of this web site about the ZAA. The land on which the airport is located was a strip mine in the early 1940's owned by Tasa Coal. When the coal was depleted and the land graded, it was sold to Halstead, Inc. in the late 1940's for a private landing strip for their company plane. As the original landing strip was grass, it also provided an excellent field for polo matches.
As the popularity of general aviation grew, hangars were built, the runway was paved, and it became an airport open to the public in the 1950's. In 1958 Zelienople Borough formed an Authority and transferred ownership and management from Halstead. In 1973 the Authority was split into two authorities: one for sewage (WBCA - Western Butler Sewer Authority; and the other, what is today, the ZAA (Zelienople Airport Authority).
Because of its close proximity to the fast-growing Cranberry Township and its location close to Interstate 79, the Zelienople Airport became a natural site for expansion to accommodate commercial aviation, light aviation-related industry, and expanded recreational flying. The airport authority, as a municipal entity, was the ideal organization to apply for state and federal grants for planning and expansion.
In 1987, the airport management developed a federally-required master plan. Within ten years it became apparent that professional help would be needed to develop a much wider plan for the future. In 2001 the airport received a planning grant of about $43,000 and awarded a contract to Kimball Engineering, a highly recognized firm in aviation engineering and planning.
The early stages of the planning process involved the formation of several advisory committees representing nearby residents, pilots, township and borough officials, and surrounding businessmen. A large amount of data was collected representing eastern Beaver County, western Butler County, and the requirements of the Federal Aviation Administration for these demographic areas.
Some of the early findings of the planning process were:
Safety was compromised by aircraft and automobiles sharing the same roadways / taxiways.
Usability was limited to small aircraft because of runway length.
Technical features, almost non-existent, for aviation navigation would have to be provided.
Acquisition of public water and sanitary sewage would be a prerequisite to any future development.
In 2006 a comprehensive Zelienople Airport Plan was approved by the ZAA, the Pennsylvania Bureau Of Aviation, and the Federal Aviation Administration. Immediately applications for grants were made, approved, and applied to runway rehabilitation, aviation navigational aids, and elimination of aviation hazards.
From 2006 to early 2012 aviation related improvements
have been made as funds were available. However, the lack of public
water and sanitary sewage has literally prevented the building of all
non-aviation related facilities such as roadways and hangars. This stalemate can
be characterized by two views:
Political. The nearest and most
economical source of public water and sanitary sewage is Zelienople Borough.
This requires the lines to cross from Butler County to Beaver County ... a
short distance but involving a host of different county and township
regulations and governmental regulators.
Economic. Some people perceive bringing
public utilities into an area that have none to be conducive to economic
growth. Other people consider this to be a downfall to existing property
values and an increase in operating costs.
By early-2012 legal and bureaucratic compromises were attained and construction is underway for infrastructure and new hangars.
Today (mid-2012), the Zelienople Airport is 300 acres, provides facilities for private aviation including hangar and tie-down space. It houses the Condor Aero Flying Club which provides flight instruction, rental planes and support for its membership. It houses the Experimental Aircraft Association which builds and maintains small aircraft and provides other diverse activities. The Pittsburgh Jet Center is the fixed-base operator who provides maintenance, refueling and charter services.
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