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Johnstown airport leaders push for more airlines & connections at Chicago conference

by Stoker Wieczorek Fri, March 24th 2023

Leaders push to expand local drone aviation opportunities

Cambria County Department of Emergency Services Deputy Director Art Martynuska explains how sensors can be placed to allow drones to operate over the region.

By Randy Griffith


November 4th 2023

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – Unmanned aircraft industry leaders say they are ready to set up a network of sensors that would enable drones to deliver emergency medical supplies, create detailed maps and assist emergency planning across Cambria County.

“This is shovel-ready. We are ready to push the button,” Art Martynuska, Cambria County Department of Emergency Services deputy director, told more than 50 community and industry leaders on Friday at John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport.

The problem is that Federal Aviation Administration rules prohibit drones from flying outside the operator’s line of sight.

 $1.125 million grant to back airport maintenance school

There are seven specific areas of the country in which the FAA has relaxed that rule as it studies the future of unmanned aircraft in civilian airspace.

Local proponents have created a network with national industry leaders and have been developing a new FAA test site location in Cambria County that could eventually cover Somerset, Indiana and Westmoreland counties.

To get the FAA’s approval, it will take about $3 million to create the network of sensors for local drone operators to join the program, said John Eberhardt, chief technology officer of Advanced Technology Applications LLC, of Great Falls, Virginia. The drones would be controlled by computer software linked to the sensors.

The local team, led by Larry Nulton, of Nulton Aviation Services, has enlisted the University of Alaska Fairbanks, which developed a successful test site in Alaska and would set up Johnstown’s site under that approval.

The partnership will better enable the university to show how drones are being used to save lives and improve the quality of life in remote areas, University of Alaska Fairbanks Business Manager James Parrish said on Friday.

“We get to partner with different organizations to test and evaluate (systems) in the lower 48 states,” Parrish said. “We are building those collaborations.”

Friday’s event was held in the 258th Air Traffic Control Squadron facility on Airport Road. Other speakers from participating organizations included the Rev. Malachi Van Tassell, St. Francis University president; David Heath, Pennsylvania Drone Association executive director; John Benhart, Indiana University of Pennsylvania professor; Dave Krause, Influential Drones president; and Stephen Kocsis, Cambria County Geographic Information Systems director.

Indiana University of Pennsylvania has been operating the only unmanned aircraft training center in the state for several years, Benhart said.

Developing a test site will not only help those students, but also enhance medical care in rural areas and help to fulfill the goals of the university’s plan to develop an osteopathic medical school on the campus.

St. Francis is already working with the airport on its pilot training option and a new aviation maintenance program slated to launch in August. An infrastructure for drones would enhance studies through the university’s Center for Cyber Defense Education, Van Tassell said.

“We don’t want this to be an isolated institution,” he said.

The Johnstown airport is the ideal location for an unmanned aircraft hub, Eberhardt said. For one thing, it is midway between Cleveland and Washington and could serve as the hub of a Cleveland- to-Washington drone route, with potential to add more cities within a 200-mile radius, Eberhardt said.

“We have the right people,” he said. “We have the education training system necessary and we have the assets. This airport is an underutilized asset. And this region actually works together and wants to get it done. That’s why this is the right place.”

State Sen. Wayne Langerholc, R-Richland Township, told the group he is working to support the efforts.

State Reps. Jim Rigby, R-Ferndale, and Frank Burns, D-East Taylor Township, were also in attendance, along with elected officials or their staff members from Somerset, Indiana and Westmoreland counties. U.S. Reps. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Washington; John Joyce, R-Blair; and Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Centre, had staff members at the event.

“This is a passion for all of us,” Nulton said, concluding the program.



    2024 JCCAA Board Meeting Schedule

    All meeting will be held at 3:30 PM in the Conference Room located  in the John-Murtha Johnstown Cambria County Airport Terminal.

    January 16th ,February 20th ,March 19th ,April 16th, ,May 21st ,June 18th ,July 16th ,August 20th ,September 17th ,October 15th ,November 19th, December 17th

    2024 JCCAA Committee Meeting dates and times

    2024-06-13 Agenda for F&A

    2024-06-13 Agenda for Facility 

    Enplanements 9:00 a.m. second Monday of each month

    Military 10:00 a.m. Second Tuesday of each month

    Facility and KOZ 10:00 a.m. Second Thursday of each month

    Personnel 10:00 a.m. Second Monday of each month

    Finance and Administration  9:00 a.m. Second Thursday of each month

    Restaurant Subcommittee 9:00 a.m. Wednesday December 6th, 2023


    In the Spotlight | World traveler counts on Johnstown’s airport

    Josh Ensley feels at home in John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County airport terminal.  The Johnstown man has traveled to more than a dozen countries from the Richland Township facility

    By Randy Griffith


    JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – In the 16th century, it took one of Ferdinand Magellan’s five ships three years to go around the world.

    Josh Ensley flew out of John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport on Thanksgiving Day and expects to make the trip in 17 days, including time for sightseeing, visiting his girlfriend April Liza’s family, and working with organizers at an international business convention along the way.

    His current trip may be a little longer than most, but international travel has become a big part of the Conemaugh Township Area High School graduate’s life.

    Ensley, 37, didn’t start out trying to be a jet-setter. After spending time in the Army and graduating from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, he did some graphic design work for several local companies, including Johnstown Magazine, ACRP and Von’s United Beverage.

    He eventually found opportunities to be limited in the small-city economy and took other jobs to get by.

    He was working at Balance Restaurant in Johnstown when a friend approached him about working as a contractor in the convention and conference industry.

    “He said, ‘See if you like it and see if you can get the software,’ ” Ensley said during an interview at the Johnstown airport. “Nothing really led me into it. I guess I just lucked out.”

    The job involves coordinating registration for events with thousands of participants, printing coded name tags that limit access to certain areas, and providing information and guidance about various sessions during the events. Most conventions host about 15,000 people, with at least one convention in Spain attracting up to 50,000 attendees.

    “Luckily I was really good with software, and I had a minimum of experience with video production,” Ensley said. “I’ve taken a liking to it because I like to travel.”

    This year alone, Ensley has touched down in Mexico, Turkey, Netherlands, Germany, France, Spain and Japan. His current trip includes stops in the United Arab Emirates, India, Philippines and Taiwan.

    Ensley had just begun working with event organizers when the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic shut down the convention industry.

    “COVID happened and all the conferences went virtual,” he recalled. “All of the conference industry was in disarray.”

    That’s when his video production, networking and software skills came to the rescue.

    “I had a buddy who made virtual conferences,” Ensley said. “They can have all the conference materials on demand if you want to go back and watch stuff.”

    As the industry rebounded, Ensley’s experience with both in-person and virtual events became more valuable for the convention-organizing companies that he works for under contract. Many have become hybrid conventions, uniting in-person attendees with virtual participants.

    In addition to the onsite and virtual convention work, Ensley does video production and manages virtual conventions from an office in Westmont.

    Reliable jet service at the Johnstown airport has enabled the world traveler to spend more time in his home community. Most of his travel begins and ends at the Richland Township airfield.

    “I like having an airport that connect me to anywhere in the world is great,” Ensley said. “It’s been a blessing. I am very pleased to see what the Johnstown airport is doing.

    “I am one of the people who uses it most,” he continued. “I have almost a quarter million miles. I want to reach my million-mile level with United (Airlines).”

    Ensley’s experience illustrates what Johnstown-Cambria County Airport Authority members were hoping for when they endorsed SkyWest Airlines to replace Boutique Air to serve the airport under the federally subsidized Essential Air Service program, authority Chairman Rick McQuaide said.

    SkyWest’s air service operates as United Express between Johnstown, Dulles International Airport in Washington and O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, connecting local travelers to United Airlines’ massive network.

    McQuaide said the United partnership is key to the airport’s ability to offer international connections.

    “The airport is excited to hear any stories like that because it’s convenient and you can get anywhere,” he said. “It’s fantastic that people are starting to realize that you can fly anywhere from Johnstown.”


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