Reading Regional Airport
streamlining for success
Flying into 2023 with infrastructure projects taking flight, Reading Regional Airport is meeting aviation demands
Reading Pennsylvania is a town rich in history when it comes to industry – and yet it is mostly known for the railroad and iron mines that once dotted the hills of this 100,000-person city that falls just within the boundaries of the Philadelphia Metropolitan area. The railroad may once have held sway here – but as time passed, travel took to the skies.
Reading Regional Airport has two main runways. The longest runway is 6350 feet long with a width of 150 feet. The shorter runway is 5151 feet and 150 feet wide. Both are grooved runways with ILS approaches. They are a part 139 certified airport – currently serviced by Southwest Airlines offering direct charters to Orlando through Boscov Travel.
The terminal has a full restaurant, departure lounge, and businesses that rent space. This includes rental car companies, the Office of State Representative Barry Jozwiak, and the Sheriff’s Department. There are two FBOs, Reading Jet Center and Millennium Aviation, as well as three fuel farms that are open from eight in the morning to eight at night. The airport operations staff are on hand from 6:00 AM to 11:00 PM daily.
“We have been trying to get the message out that an airport is here for many reasons,” says Zackary Tempesco, Airport Director. “People look at this airport, and because we don’t have scheduled air service, they tend to not see the value as much. I tell people that without the airport you simply don’t have the ability for businesses to move into the area and access the community quickly, especially larger businesses that may need private business aircraft travel.”
He continues, “There is also general aviation travel – I mean, we have two fixed-based operators at the airport, and they are busy all day. With jets coming in and out in the morning and in the evening. So, we have a lot of businesses that we see access the community through the airport. We have businesses like Penske, First Energy, Penn National Gaming, Loomis Insurance Company, and Quest Diagnostics flying in and out of our airport regularly. By having those companies come in, we help establish a foothold for them in Berks County, which again makes our community grow and prosper economically.”
In terms of recent infrastructure improvement, the airport recently completed a Terminal Apron project, repaving the entire apron. They also put in a concrete parking pad that can hold 737s. Coming up next will be upgrading the airport signage and LED taxiway lighting upgrades. On the economic development side, the AP Development group has come forward with a proposal for a series of 100×100 box hangers. The current plan is for the construction of four hangars capable of holding anything up to a challenger aircraft.
Covid and other factors have been leading us to a crisis in terms of the airline industry, a lack of pilots and maintenance workers has been creating a lot of movement in terms of promotion and retention. This seems to be true of airports across the country.
“We have had turnover like everybody else,” Tempesco muses, “Currently, we are fully staffed, and we’ll be hiring additional staff just to keep trainees in the pipeline because obviously, we want to make sure that we can stay operational. The airport itself only has eight maintenance people and three administration folks.”
“We were well above 50,000 operations before Covid, and we went all the way down to 25,000 operations a year, which we weren’t very happy about. Now we are back up around 38,000 operations a year, and the general aviation itinerant numbers have spiked. When we look at itinerant business traffic alone, we had close to 12,000 before Covid and we are at 22,000 now,”
Tempesco points out that another major shift that came about because of Covid was the loss of flight instruction on the field. Before the pandemic, there were two flight schools in Reading. One of which closed right before the onset of restrictions, and one which decided to close.
Another school started up in 2021 but failed to make a go of it. He is confident that this situation will correct itself soon as the airport has been approached by interested individuals.
“This year we also had our first ever aviation career fair,” Tempesco adds, “The fair kind of stemmed from the acknowledgment of some of those shortages. In October of last year, we brought in some static aircraft displays, we had aviation seminars throughout the day, and we had many exhibitors including four airlines.” Reading Regional Airport Authority is building this event in partnership with Reading Aero Club.
“All the military branches were present as well as multiple colleges, including Florida Institute of Technology, Penn Tech, EMU, and Embry-Riddle. It was very successful and we are planning on doing it again next October. The airport also does an aviation internship program, along with Quest Diagnostics, to allow high school students to have an early entry into the industry.” Tempesco elaborates.
Tempesco attended the Florida Institute of Technology for Aviation Management – coming out with the intent of being a commercial pilot. That was a downturn in the industry, however, and he found himself working on the ground, but still in the industry – making his way from the director of operations at Reading to Airport Director. The experience he has here, and in other airports, along with his experience as a pilot, makes him qualified when it comes to navigating a modern airport.
“I think being a pilot definitely helps,” he agrees, “I have a good understanding of all the needs of the different businesses that are on the field. With our internship program, I am talking with our community quite often and showing the students what’s needed for them to get these jobs and what kind of lifestyle or rather, the work-life balance they’re going to have. Some of what is behind running the airport is no different from managing property but the other half of it is knowing what the aviation community expects or needs.”
“We just finished a business review and strategic plan for the airport last year,” Tempesco concludes. “Our top priorities are going to be focused on business aviation as well as financial sustainability and safety. Our airport went through a pretty large change in the management structure recently – and not for negative reasons, but because the seven-member board that represented the county wanted to allow for new ideas and organization.”
“So now we have three county commissioners, the Community and Economic Development Coordinator, and the Chief Operating Officer of the county making up a five-member board for the airport. The Fiduciary responsibility for the airport is still in the hands of the county, but this is a new strategy to take development seriously and allow for quicker response and decision-making when it comes to implementing the Master Plan. It is exciting to see what is on the horizon,” he thoughtfully concludes.
AT A GLANCE
Reading Regional Airport
WHAT: A busy, general aviation airport owned by Reading Regional Airport Authority
WHERE: Berks County, Pennsylvania
Greater Reading Chamber Alliance – www.greaterreading.org
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