September 4, 2013
By Benét J. Wilson
Pilots flying into Pennsylvania’s Slatington Airport now have access to free trail bikes, thanks to the efforts of Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 855.
The airport, owned by manager Roger Sell, is nestled at the Lehigh Gap, in Lower Towamensing Township near Allentown. “It’s a very picturesque airport right by the Lehigh River. My dad started the airport in the 1950s,” said Sell.
The EAA Chapter was based at Kutztown Airport in Berks County. But after the airport closed in January 2009, Sell offered the chapter meeting space at his pilot lounge.
Chapter President Gene Salvatore noted that the D&L Trail opened near the airport, running north to south from White Haven to Whitehall Township and beyond. “The greatest thing about the bike trail is that it passes right next to Slatington Airport,” he said. “Last summer as I biked the gap with my daughter Amanda, I started thinking about how nice it would be if pilots from the nearby cities of New York, Baltimore, and Washington could make the short flight into Slatington and take advantage of the great bike trails, hiking and fishing that the area offers.”
So the chapter built a bike shed with donated labor and equipped it with maps of the area, contact information, an air pump, and tools. It also accepted bike donations and bought more at yard sales, said Salvatore. “We have gone over all the bikes to make sure they are safe to use. I did include information in the shed just in case anyone would like to donate towards the bike project. I would love to have some nice bikes for pilots to use,” he said.
The chapter is working on better maps of the area, said Salvatore. “The maps in the shed are adequate, but I would like to post them on our web page so people can plan their day ahead of time,” he said. “I lived in New York City for 40 years and know first hand how special a day in the country can be for young and old alike. The Lehigh Gap has a rugged beauty, and I hope this program will help people leave the city for a day and enjoy it with their families. We have also cleared an area of woods next to the river for overnight camping.”
Pilots can call ahead to see if bikes are available. “If a lot of pilots call for a particular weekend, I would bring additional bikes up to the shed,” Salvatore said. “I think that the growth of rail trails, where people can ride on a quiet trail away from cars has been a boon for trail biking and great for the health of the nation.”
SocialFlight users can now publish events via Facebook and Twitter.
Thought about participating in a charitable flying event? Many nonprofit groups host a day at the airport in which volunteer pilots can give flights to eager fledglings. Check with your local airport about what may be scheduled for 2014.
The new owners of a privately owned, public-use airport in an enviable New Jersey location have big plans, and vacant hangars.
AOPA thanks our members for their continued support in protecting the freedom to fly.