Kathy Antoniotti


GREEN: The grand opening of the Akron-Canton Airport’s latest expansion was almost derailed Friday morning when the centerpiece of the celebration was put on alert for the reason it was built — a possible emergency with an incoming plane.



During his opening remarks, President and CEO Rick McQueen said the dedication of the airport’s new $8.9 million aircraft rescue and firefighting operations facility was almost canceled when personnel went on alert.



The airplane landed safely, and the program proceeded as planned, airport Fire Chief Todd Laps said.



“An aircraft called in with an emergency hydraulic problem that landed without incident,” said Laps following the department’s demonstration of a planned live fire in a plane fuselage during the event.



Summit and Stark county dignitaries, airport officials and local firefighters attended the dedication of the new facility off Mount Pleasant Road,U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth, a pilot and former volunteer firefighter from Wadsworth, said the airport is a great asset for the district.



“I can’t tell you how much I rave about the Akron-Canton Airport,” he told the crowd.



“This new facility is an excellent addition to an already top-notch airport,” he said.



The 35,000 square foot rescue and firefighting facility, which houses airport operations, field maintenance and firefighting equipment, is double the size of the 1976 building formerly housing operations. Its new location will allow for faster response times in an emergency and for snow removal, McQueen said.



“It’s closer to the center of the airfield since the runways were extended this direction. That gives us better access to the entire airfield,” he said.



The facility includes housing for the airport’s two firetrucks and dormitories for male and female firefighters, space for snow removal equipment and an operations center.



Ninety-five percent of the expansion was paid for through the federal Airport Improvement Program. The airport was responsible for $475,000, or 5 percent of the project, that came from airport revenues from airline and passenger facility charges, said Kristie VanAuken, senior vice president and chief marketing and communications officer.



The opening of the free-standing building will allow for expansions in the airport terminal of the security screening area and customs or border patrol for possible international flights, McQueen said.



The public is invited to attend a free open house of the facility from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. today. Those attending are asked to park next door at the 356th Fighter Group restaurant, 4919 Mount Pleasant Road, and take the shuttle bus to the air rescue and firefighting building.



Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or kantoniotti@thebeaconjournal.com.