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New Garden Flying Field opens aviation center

01/19/2016 01:23PM ● Published by J. Chambless

The lobby of the new aviation center at the New Garden Flying Field.

By Richard L. Gaw
Staff Writer

Over the last several years, the New Garden Flying Field has become much more than a series of hangars and landing strips in southern Chester County.

The two Future Aviators Camps it hosts every summer have risen dramatically in attendance every year since they were first introduced ten years ago, and have earned the right to be called among the best camps of their kind in the United States. For the first time last year, the air field hosted The Chester County Balloon Festival, which drew 13,000 visitors, and will host the event again this year. About four or five weekends a year, the grounds of New Garden Flying Field are mobbed by sightseers and flight enthusiasts who attend various air shows.

And yet, during those years, there hasn't been a centralized location for all of this activity to converge.

Until now.

The New Garden Flying Field recently opened the doors to its new Aviation Center, a 2,500-square-foot facility that will serve as a base of operations, and create a professional-looking and comfortable meeting spot for pilots, tenants, students, customers and the community. Connected to an existing hangar, the center stands at the site of one of the original hangars at the air field, which was used as a maintenance shop for many years.

Pointing in various directions from the new center, New Garden Flying Field Aviation Director Jon Martin said, “The flight school was over there, and my office was up those steps. For many years, a transient pilot would fly in and not know where the airport offices were, nor where the rest rooms were located. What I envisioned was a place that had everything we needed, and could be a central location to fill our needs currently, and in the future, without costing a lot of money.”

The first seeds of the concept began a few years ago, and although initial sketches were created, the schematic seemed too grandiose for what was needed, and far too expensive. Scaling back on the cost factor without sacrificing the Air Field's needs, Martin shared his ideas with the New Garden Township Board of Supervisors during the last year, and with funding genereted from 2015 operations, the project began two-and-a-half months ago, and was completed in late December.

Through a glass door entrance and beneath an awning that's a week away from being installed, visitors to the Aviation Center will be welcomed by receptionist Kati Parlier, and have access to a pilot lounge, just off to the right, which will have snacks and beverages and comfortable seating.

Up the hall, a dedicated simulator room includes much of the technology that has been used for the Future Aviators Camp, and includes remote control airplane simulators, the Redbird flight trainer and a Cessna simulator.

“As both the camp and after-school programs have grown, students can now get a hands-on experience with out the time-consuming effort of pulling out and setting up simulators, which had previously been stored elsewhere,” Martin said.

A nearby conference room is perfect for meetings and opportunities for pilots, as well as a great place for businesses to hold off-site team building events – which can also link them with flight demonstrations with licensed pilots. There is also a multimedia education room for presentations, lectures and film viewing.

The new center is part of the continuing changes to the air field's physical plant, which also include new hangars, slated to be completed in May, and a newly-renovated runway project, which is scheduled to be finished next year.

“We have been looking to put a more professional face on the business aspect of this air field for some time,” Martin said. “New Garden Air Field has evolved it into an airport for tomorrow. We have the Balloon Festival. We have the air shows. We have the summer camps, which are gaining national recognition. We're working on the business of aviation. We're trying to do our part make it a viable, self-sustaining airport within the township.”

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail rgaw@chestercounty.com.

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