Pavement Improvements Planned at Airport

BENTON TOWNSHIP -- The rainy, foggy weather isn't ideal for flying, but it did allow the owner of Seamans Airport near Factoryville to take us out on to the runway to see one of the airport's most plaguing problems.

"The pilots have been saying, 'Hey Bill, the cracks are getting a little big on the runway. It would be nice if we could get them fixed up,'" said owner Bill Dobitsch.

Dobitsch says the runway is still safe for pilots to use, but the cracks have become much worse over the past few years. It's been decades since the runway was last paved.

A recent grant funded with money from the state's jet fuel tax will help fix the cracks later this year. The state is footing the bill for about 75 percent of a $100,000 project.

"This is phase one of a two-phase project," Dobitsch explained. "We're going to concentrate on the cracks, taking care of all that right now, and hopefully within two years we're going to be able to do the seal coating and get all the lines squared away."

Most of the planes that take off at Seamans Airport are going anywhere between 50 and 70 miles per hour for takeoff and pilots say right now, it's like driving full speed down a pretty bumpy highway.

"As you land the airplane or taking the airplane off, you feel each crack – clunk, clunk, clunk, clunk. It's going to be like brand new pavement, brand new concrete. It's going to be like a whole brand new experience," said pilot Thomas Malinchak.

Malinchak is an avid flier, so much so that he and his family live right next to the Seamans Airport runway. He says the repairs are long overdue and can go a long way to attract private pilots.

"We need to revitalize flying as much as we can, in any way shape or form that we can."

Dobitsch says the state grant will help ensure the airport's future. It's been open since the late 1930s.

"A little bit of maintenance now will save lots of money down the road. It's a great thing; we're really thrilled about it."

Repairs are scheduled to begin later this year