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With Flying Colors
by Jeffrey B. Roth + photos by Chris Jackson
Hagerstown Regional Airport lures businesses in, while offering a means for travelers to go.
When deciding to open a new facility, Mecaer Aviation Group, company officials were impressed by Hagerstown Regional Airport’s location.
“One of the most interesting things about this area — and it was certainly interesting to my boss and the Mecaer Group — is that you can reach 85 percent of the population of the United States within 10 hours of Hagerstown because we’re at the crossroads of I-81 and I-70 and U.S. 11,” explains Andrew Lewis, director of maintenance for Mecaer’s facility located at Hagerstown Regional Airport, (HGR). “Most of the population of the United States lives near the Eastern Seaboard. We’re in a great geographical location as well because of access to so many population centers up and down the East Coast.”
The airport, also known as Richard A. Henson field, encompasses 693 acres, and is located 15 minutes from Hagerstown on Showalter Road. Originally, the airport opened in 1928, after the Kreider-Reisner Aircraft Company purchased 60 acres of farmland. In 1933, Hagerstown purchased the airport.
MAG is an international company, which opened its Hagerstown division in 2012, and currently employs six people. They primarily focus on helicopter completion and maintenance, Andrew says. The company also builds landing gear and flight controls for helicopters in the U.S., Canada and Italy.
“At the site here in Hagerstown we do helicopter customization and completion, maintenance and repair” Andrew explains. “Right now we are set up as an authorized service center for AgustaWestland products. We primarily focus on AW139 models.”
Part of MAG’s mission is to support the Maryland State Police Aviation Command. In conjunction to their work with AgustaWestland, they have also developed international relationships with companies in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, South Korea, and Turkey.
“The president of our company, Ed Pears, had done a site search at several locations in the country,” Andrew says. “He decided to come here to Hagerstown as part of the expansion of Mecaer’s footprint in North America.” Washington County Department of Business Development also offered MAG financial incentives, which may have played a role in the decision to come here.
“In addition to its location, we came here because of its friendly environment and because the airport is pretty much wide open as far as developing new business opportunities involving servicing of helicopters,” Andrew says.
“The hangar was pretty much a blank canvas allowing us to do what we wanted with it,” Andrew says. “We added a few offices on the lower level of the hangar floor and there is a mezzanine of offices above us. The hangar was very well-equipped.”
Takin’ You To School
The Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics, (PIA), felt HGR was a perfect match, says Butch Adams, campus director of the education and training facility. The program provides hands-on training in aviation technology-related disciplines. “We actually started in 1927 as Curtiss-Wright Flight Services,” Butch says. It was founded by Glenn Curtiss and Orville Wright — one of the famed Wright brothers. “In 1929, we started to offer flight training, with the opening of a school at Bettis Airport in Pittsburgh.”
An electronics division was added in 1979, and in April 2011, the Hagerstown campus opened in the former Fairchild building, with satellite campuses located in Youngstown, Ohio and Myrtle Beach, S.C.
With 62 students currently enrolled, the campus employs five instructors, two administrators, and two other staff members. It offers FAA-approved Aviation Maintenance Technician training at the campus.
“Washington County commissioners, the Department of Business Development and the airport authority contacted PIA about locating a campus at the airport, Butch says. “It was an appropriate fit.”
The site had the infrastructure PIA needed, along with trained, skilled aeronautics mechanics at the airport. Its location was another benefit, Butch says. James Jenkins, public relations and community affairs manager for the Department of Business Development says the airport is classified as an Enterprise Zone. What that means to businesses interested in locating at the airport, or in any of the state-designated Enterprise Zones, is that companies may be eligible for local real property tax credits and state income tax credits. New commercial construction within an Enterprise Zone is exempt from the commercial building excise tax. The state income tax credits can translate into a maximum of $1,500 for each new job created, as long as there is a minimum of 25 new positions.
The airport boasts a 7,000-foot runway, the second-longest in the state, behind BWI. It hosts commercial passenger services, corporate and business services and also accommodates military aircraft. Cape Air provides a daily passenger service to BWI. Allegiant in the spring of 2012 began offering non-stop flights to Orlando, Fla. Sun Air International offers business flights from Hagerstown to Dulles.
Hagerstown Regional Airport
18434 Showalter Rd,
Hagerstown, Md. 21742