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Pilot Briefing: Saving airports

Burning the mortgage

A little more than six years ago—on November 24, 2008—22 pilots at Sky Manor Airport invested enough deposit money to buy the privately owned Pittstown, New Jersey, facility.
March Briefing
How some New Jersey pilots bought and paid off their airport

A little more than six years ago—on November 24, 2008—22 pilots at Sky Manor Airport invested enough deposit money to buy the privately owned Pittstown, New Jersey, facility. No papers were signed, no contracts drawn up; the deal was done with old-fashioned handshakes and a “let’s do it” attitude (see “Buying Sky Manor,” January 2011 AOPA Pilot).

The partners maintained that attitude, and fewer than seven years later, the airport will be paid off this spring. A mortgage burning party is already in the works.

Sky Manor has continued to be a story of financial success, operational success, and personal success. The original 22 owner/members have grown to more than 40. All six founding members of Sky Manor Airport Partners LLC still are in place, demonstrating their personal commitment to work with each other toward a common goal—proving that their business model was viable, and that the airport would be solvent and sustain itself. Paying off the airport mortgage early was a stretch goal that was in the back of everyones’ minds.

When it was purchased, the airport facility and the surrounding buildings were in a state of disrepair. What project would be tackled first? It seemed that everything needed to be at the top of the list.

Each founding member had an area of expertise. For Rich Leone and Paul Ruo, it was finance; for Adam Silverstein and Rob Marookian, construction; and for Craig Johnston and Don Kugler, sales and marketing. Their combined expertise enabled them to prioritize the work list, beginning the revitalization of Sky Manor Airport.

The list encompassed improvements large and small, including a newly paved and extended runway; a newly paved and striped ramp for transient aircraft; refurbished buildings; and new landscaping with a patio and walkways. As work began and the airport flourished, new businesses arrived. The airport is now home to a helicopter operation, a new maintenance shop, and its first avionics shop.

Even extensive damage from Hurricane Sandy in October 2012 did little to slow the progress. Damaged hangars were repaired to better-than-new condition, with new doors and siding. A large hangar housing three airplanes had to be razed and a new hangar constructed in its place.

These upgrades have allowed GA to flourish at Sky Manor. A very active EAA chapter has conducted hundreds of Young Eagle flights, and September’s annual fly-in is not to be missed. A restaurant on the field and appealing pricing on self-serve 100LL fuel bring visitors every day of the week.

A special feature at the airport came in the form of a restored 1924 lighted airway beacon. One of the owner/members acquired the beacon in 2010; it had fallen into disrepair at another local airport. He restored it, added a motor, and donated it to Sky Manor. It proudly rotates once again on a four-foot pedestal outside the restaurant and stands as a testament to the love that the pilots feel for Sky Manor Airport—the airport they call home, and which they now own.

Karen Candiani is a pilot and an assistant professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and director of the Charlotte Engineering and Aerospace Institute in Port Charlotte, Florida.

Sky Manor Airport (N40), Pittstown, New Jersey

Located two miles southwest of the city.
Runway 7/25: 2,900 feet by 50 feet
Pattern altitude: 1,400 feet msl
Elevation: 560 feet

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