Young Eagles Take Off!

PENN TWP – The buzz at the Pittsburgh-Butler Regional Airport’s community hangar Saturday was consistent and excited.

Sure, six general aviation planes were taking off and landing at a swift and steady rate. But it was the children — 110 in all that — that kept the hum alive with giggling, ohhing, awing and snapping photos in eager anticipation of their first flight in an airplane.

Six pilots from the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 857, all volunteers, flew every child between the ages of 8 and 17 who attended the five-hour event.

For free.

“We just want to give kids the chance to get involved in aviation,” said pilot Chuck Potts of Zelienople. “Out of 20 or so who participate, maybe one will go into aviation.”

While some of the pilots seated two or three children in a trip, Potts only could take passengers one at a time in his plane: a Taylorcraft L2A. A crowd favorite, the L2A was built for observation and liaison during World War II.

Potts said he’s flown more than 100 children over the years, and he’s never had one get sick in his plane. But he has had participants come back years later to tell him they joined the Air Force Academy.

“That’s what it’s all about,” said Potts, who worked more than two decades as a safety inspector for the FAA before retiring.

Even prior to Saturday’s event, which mirrored International Young Eagles Day, members of EAA Chapter 857 had flown more than 2,400 children, according to coordinator Debie Santolla.

“I have never seen a child come back and say they didn’t have a good time,” said Santolla, who’s been a part of the local program since its inception.

The International Young Eagles program is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. This chapter has been around about 17 of those years. It moved from Zelienople to the Pittsburgh-Butler Regional Airport in Penn Township about five years ago.

After registering, the children were taken to a classroom inside the hangar and given a 20-minute “ground school” class on safety and why planes fly.

They then hopped in a plane for about a half hour, flying through the blue skies over Lake Arthur and back. Some children who were lucky enough to land a front seat were given the opportunity to fly the plane for a moment or two while in the air.

At the conclusion of the flight, the children were given a certificate signed by the pilot and an access code to receive “Sporty’s Pilot” magazine for free.

The EAA Chapter 857, which generates its funds through membership dues and the sale of food and beverages at the events, uses its money to pay for scholarships for children to attend the Oshkosh Air Academy Camp in Wisconsin.

The children to receive the scholarships, annually about three, will be selected from all the Young Eagles flown by this chapter this year. If they are interested in attending the camp, they make that note on their Young Eagles registration, and in January they will be asked to write an essay.

But for most of the children participating, the flight alone was the big draw.

“She’s so excited,” Missy Miller of Slippery Rock said while waiting in line with her daughter, 9-year-old Belle. “This is her first time up in the air.”

Capt. Larry Schaefer was Belle’s pilot. She flew with her friend Morgan Teets, 10, of Slippery Rock and Brandon McMasters, 10, of Butler.

The EAA Chapter 857’s next events at Pittsburgh-Butler Regional Airport are August 13 and Sept. 10. Watch the airport’s Facebook page for more details. And get more information about the EAA Chapter 857 here:


Fabulous First Flight!

There was so much to enjoy about his first ever flight in a general aviation airplane that Kenneth Spinneweber just couldn’t pick a favorite.

“II loved it all,” he said after about a half-hour in the skies over Pittsburgh-Butler Regional Airport.

Spinneweber, 13, of Butler won the airport’s Facebook post contest at Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau’s Celebrate Butler County event earlier this year.

He collected his prize — a Discovery Flight courtesy of the airport’s Fixed Base Operator, AirQuest Aviation — this past weekend.

Kenneth generously selected his brother Leo, 8, to be his passenger. And together they flew over some familiar sites including their home and the school they attend: St. Luke Lutheran in Cabot.

Kenneth, who has an interest in aviation, already is a member of the Civil Air Patrol 712.

“He definitely can not wait to fly again,” said his mother Trina Carl Spinneweber.

Young Eagles get ready for take off!

Get ready to celebrate all the Young Eagles out there!

Children can experience their first flight in an airplane FREE as part of the International Young Eagles Day.

The event is June 10 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the Pittsburgh-Butler Regional Airport, 473 Airport Road, Butler, Pa. 16002

The Young Eagles program, launched in 1992, gives interested young people an opportunity to go flying in a general aviation airplane.

Participants, ages 8 to 17, will need a form (available at the event) completed and signed by a parent or guardian before the flight. This form also enrolls the participant in the Young Eagles National Log Book, and provides him or her with a commemorative certificate afterward. There is no cost before or after the flight.

The flights, which begin with a “ground school” discussion of what makes an airplane fly and includes other educational elements, are made possible through the generosity of EAA member volunteers. , This event is sponsored by EAA Chapter 857.

The first ground school begins at 9:30 a.m. The in-air flight lasts between 15 and 20 minutes. The pilot might allow the participant to take the controls!

Hot dogs, hamburgers, and soda will be available for purchase at the event.

This is not a fly-in. The group’s planned Breakfast Fly-Ins are scheduled for August 13 and Sept. 10.

Learn more at the EAA Chapter 857 here: Chapter


Welcome Deer Lakes Pilots Club!

There was no shortage of wings, wheels or smiles at the Deer Lakes Pilots Club’s open house on Saturday.

A continuous crowd enjoyed grilled food and great stories as the organization unveiled it’s new hangar (T6-1) and welcomed visitors.

The Deer Lakes Pilots Club is accepting new members! There are applications at the airport office for anyone who is interested!


Tool Bash Blast

Neighboring Penn Township Volunteer Fire Department held its annual Tool Bash in one of the airport’s community hangars this weekend.

Here’s a look at some of the fun:


Winner, winner

Winner, winner! Marlene Knobeloch of Butler gets a dinner.
Or maybe a lunch.
Knobeloch was selected as the winner of a $25 Serventi’s gift card from the Pittsburgh-Butler Regional Airport’s Facebook contest.
Thanks to everyone who participated. Look for more fun giveaways to people who like the airport’s Facebook page in the future.

Spring Open House

The Pittsburgh-Butler Regional Airport’s spring open house featured camaraderie and COOKIES!

Pitt the plane also made his public appearance debut.

Thanks to everyone who pitched in and attended.






Andy Allen joins Airport Authority

There was always a call to flight for Andy Allen. But as a boy, his ambition was to fly slightly higher.

“I wanted to be an astronaut,” he said.

Allen found his way into the pilot’s seat of an airplane by age 14. And 9,000+ piloting hours later he joins the Pittsburgh-Butler Regional Airport as the newest addition to the Butler County Airport Authority Board.

Allen, 39, grew up on the bicentennial seventh-generation Armstrong Farms in Saxonburg, and admits becoming a pilot was an untraditional ambition among his family members.

“I’m the odd ball,” he said.

Andy’s mother, Kathy, bought him his first flight lesson as a birthday gift, and he began flying about once a month at McVille Airport in rural Armstrong County.

He flew his first solo at 16 in a Cessna 152.

“McVille was an old potato farm,” he said. “It had a grass strip, and they had to move the round bales off the runway for me to solo.”

Throughout his days as a student at Shady Side Academy, the lure to aeronautics lingered. Andy recalls seeing a space shuttle take off as a school field trip, attending “Space Camp,” and proposing a trip to the airport for career day.

For his high school senior project, he earned his instrument rating.

After high school graduation, Andy earned his bachelor’s degree in Aeronautic Technology from Purdue University. While there, he interned at Kennedy Space Center, specifically studying human factors in shuttle maintenance.

“I still had a space bug,” he said.

Andy worked his way through college as a mechanic at a local airport, and in the process also earned his commercial pilot’s license.

In 2000, he became a commercial pilot with American Eagle Airlines, first based in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

His home base for flight would change more than a dozen times, including Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles.

But his home address returned to being the family farm around 2003, and remains there today.

In 2013, he stopped commercial flight to spend more time with his wife Kristan and children Drew, now 5, and Olivia, 4.

“It was time to put both feet into Armstrong Farms,” he said.

The family business is growing in phenomenal and unexpected ways. In addition to the 200-300 head of cattle, the homestead now includes a landscaping supply element, a real estate business and a bed and breakfast.

Andy and his mom now team up to offer a successful on-site wedding package that includes a ceremony, accommodations and a follow up bonfire.

“We host weddings,” he said. “When you have a wedding here, you are really having it at our house.”

But still, Andy loves to fly.

When he quit the airline industry he first bought a Maule that he later traded in for a Cessna, which he keeps at Pittsburgh-Butler Airport.

“This airport is such a great asset for the community, joining the board just made sense to me,” he said. “I love aviation and I’m invested in this community.”

Spring Open House

No fooling! Tenants are invited to visit the airport’s new offices located on the first floor of the Terminal Building and greet our newest Airport Authority Board Member, Andy Allen!

Stop in on Saturday, April 1 any time between 9 and 11 a.m.

We’ll have cookies, punch, and coffee, as well as the always enjoyable airport camaraderie. Recently acquired historic photos of the airport will be available for viewing.

Hope you can join us!

If you haven’t paid it by then, you can hand deliver your April rent at the Open House!  But if you’re mailing it (or your bank is) remember to update the address to  473 Airport Road, Suite 2, Butler PA  16002.