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.

Pilots shake the Rust off at Weekend Event

PENN TWP – Meet Diana Wulff … a self-proclaimed Rusty Pilot.

“I haven’t been pilot in command in more than five years,” said Wulff of Center Township. “I’m ready to go back, and today was my first step.”

Wulff was among more than 60 people to attend a session of the Aircraft Owner’s and Pilots Association (AOPA) seminar Saturday at Pittsburgh-Butler Regional Airport.

The seminar, which was free to AOPA members, gave pilots the information they need to get current after a hiatus from aviation.

Members of the audience traveled from around Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia to attend.

Some said they had not flown in years due to family events, previous medical conditions and employment responsibilities. Others had flown that very morning.

“It’s just good to have a refresher,” Jim Winnier explained of his decision to attend.

The class was taught by Dale Robinson, a Certified Flight Instructor and aviation trainer from Delaware.

Every participant left the program with a logbook endorsement attesting that he or she completed three hours of ground training toward a Flight Review.

Based on the overwhelmingly positive experience, Butler County Airport Authority Board Member Andy Allen said the airport hopes to hold more AOPA events in the future.

Pittsburgh-Butler Regional Airport extends special thanks to Chas Tanner, who helped organize the event, and the Condor Aero Club from the Zelienople Airport for providing the morning’s donuts.

Registration Open for Rusty Pilots

The Pittsburgh-Butler Regional Airport will host a session of the AOPA’s Rusty Pilots program, beginning at 9:30 am on March 4. 

The class, which is free to AOPA members and $69 to non-members, gives pilots who have taken a break from aviation, guidance on how to get current and return to flying.
Get the details and register here:

Emergency responders learn about Drones

Penn Township police officer Alyssa Mathews was one of about 30 emergency responders from around the region to attend a drone seminar hosted by Pittsburgh-Butler Regional Airport on Friday, Feb 10.

The seminar, taught by Federal Aviation Administration safety team program manager Henrik Vejlstrup, was held specifically to answer questions relating to drones and law enforcement.

This was part of an on-going series of seminars about drones the airport has been hosting since last year. More programs are planned in the future and will be advertised on our Website and Facebook page.

Historic Photo Collection Returns To Airport

ZELIENOPLE – Ken Scholter seems to have taken a most mysterious route back to the Pittsburgh-Butler Regional Airport.

The late airport manager of more than three decades — so beloved that the Terminal Building still carries his name on a plaque — also apparently was a prolific amateur photographer who documented the trials, victories and happenstance that unfolded at the airport under his watch.

But no one knew about the late airport manager’s historic photo collection until some current airport enthusiasts rolled the dice on an Internet auction and won.

Airport resident Jeff Seruset, who has a long love of acquiring notables and recent interest in online auctions, late last year came across a particular lot that caught his attention: A grouping of items that originated from the estate of John A. “Drew” Martin of Butler, a Navy veteran, local pilot and longtime Armco employee who died in June 2016.

The auction site as standard policy shows only the boxes and a couple contents, which in this case included hints the boxes were relevant to the airport.

“The big clue?” Seruset said, “There’s a brochure in there from the airport’s 1929 grand opening. I think that’s the only one left in existence.”

But the tease was all they got: Bidders had no idea what was actually inside the boxes.

The mystery alone was enough to entice Seruset and Butler County Airport Authority Board member Jim Opalka to bid in the Dec. 1 auction. Sight unseen, the two men offered bids for the boxes’ contents, winning all but two of the lots.

“Being that I live here at the airport, I felt they shouldn’t get away,” Seruset said. “I felt sort of a duty.”

Opalka described himself as “a kid at Christmas” the day he picked up the boxes from a warehouse in Zelienople and drove them home for his first opportunity to look inside.

“They were just a couple of dirty, little boxes,” Opalka said. “But you know what they say, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

The longtime history lover could not be more pleased with the find… literally hundreds of photographs that map out the planes, places and people that define the airport’s history.

A good share are fragile black and white snapshots, dating back to before the airport was officially dedicated in 1929. Most of the photos appear to have been taken between 1930 and 1950 when both photography and aviation were developing in exciting ways.

“I kept thinking, and realizing what these guys had to go through to get these pictures,” Seruset said. “There’s some great shots and important people in there.”

The photographs capture the gamut of airport life all the way through a catalog of color photos that include some of the people you will find on the airport grounds today. Scholter died in 2002 at age 91.

“There was a form in there that said it was to be given to Jim Opalka,” Opalka said. “I read it. And for a second, I didn’t realize that was me.”

About half of the photos carry handwritten notations on the back to identify the place and time they were taken. Some of the photos are neatly preserved in albums, others are loose. While most are marked to have been taken by Scholter, some appear to be professionally commissioned.

“Somehow all of that stuff got to Drew (Martin),” Seruset said.

Seruset poured through his share of the boxes for eight days before gifting the collection to the airport . Coupled with Opalka’s win and a thick album the airport already had accumulated, the collection now will be cataloged then displayed on the airport campus in some fashion.

“Maybe a history wall,” said airport manager Ike Kelly, who is able to recognize and speak authoritatively on the contents of the majority of the pictures.

And there are still at least two more boxes out there that someone else won during the auction. The airport, Kelly said, would consider purchase of those items also if they could locate the winning bidder. After all, you just don’t know what’s inside them.

Administration Offices to Relocate

PENN TWP – We like to consider ourselves always on the move at Pittsburgh-Butler Regional Airport. But this time, we are really moving.

Construction is underway to relocate the airport’s administration offices onto the ground floor of the Terminal Building.

“It just makes sense,” said airport manager, Ike Kelly. “It is the most visible and easy to find location for people who are not familiar with the airport.”

Both Kelly and administrative assistant Stacey Daugharthy will move to the new offices by the end of February. The new address will be 473 Airport Road, Suite 2, Butler PA 16002. The telephone number will continue to be 724-586-6665.

Visit us on the Internet at

Drone Seminar draws a crowd

PENN TWP – An enthusiastic crowd of more than 50 people attended a free seminar on drones held Saturday, January 14, at Pittsburgh-Butler Regional Airport.

The presentation, moderated by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) safety team program manager Henrik Vejlstrup, was held inside a hangar at the airport and included a question and answer period and a drone demonstration.

Special thanks to EAA representatives, who sold coffee and donuts at the event.

Missed it? Keep your eyes on the airport’s calendar. A number of other drone-related events are on the horizon including one specially designed for law enforcement.


Free Drone Seminar

PENN TWP – Did you find a drone under your tree? You’re not alone! According to the FAA, registration of Unmanned Aircraft Systems, or drones, now outnumbers aircraft registration in the United States. But does your drone even need to be registered?  Where are you permitted or not permitted to fly?

To help answer the many questions we receive, the Pittsburgh-Butler Regional Airport, formerly the Butler County Airport, is hosting another free seminar on drones. Join us the morning of January 14, beginning at 9:30, inside Hangar C3, 475 Airport Rd, Butler.  Drone flying guidelines will be presented by a representative of the FAA, followed by a flight demonstration and a question and answer period. Seats are still available, so please join us, even if you didn’t sign up!  The EAA will be selling coffee and donuts as a fundraiser, come prepared if you might want to purchase a treat.

This event was initially planned for December 17, but was rescheduled due to inclement weather. If you had new leather work gloves for our Lend a Hand Drive, we will still collect them for Hosanna Industries; they are so grateful for the support.