The lease of the former State Police helicopter hangar at the Williamsport Regional Airport to a new tenant doesn't necessarily mean the chopper won't return if the chance arises in the future.
Williamsport Regional Airport Authority board members Thursday evening voted to lease the space to Aviation Holdings LP, the holding company for new airport fixed-based operator Energy Aviation, for $3,850 a month.
As a fixed-based operator, Energy Aviation will provide fuel, maintenance, flight instruction and hangar space to business and general aviation customers. The company replaced DeGol Jet Center and signed a lease with the authority in November.
State police announced in November 2011 that a helicopter and a fixed-wing airplane would be relocated to other areas. The helicopter, which was frequently used by area police departments to assist in vehicle pursuits, investigations and rescue missions, was placed at the Hazleton Municipal Airport.
Locally elected state legislators attempted for months to bring the aviation unit back to the airport without success. Most recently, an early October 2012 measure in the state House of Representatives to return state police air coverage here failed by just eight votes.
State Rep. Rick Mirabito, D-Williamsport, however, said there may still be a chance for its return.
"I don't think it's over," he said.
Mirabito, who said the need clearly exists for such a service here, indicated there could be room in the next state budget to provide state police aviation coverage from the local airport.
"I think we need to continue to organize citizens to voice their concerns over it," he said.
State Rep. Garth Everett, R-Muncy, agreed. "I plan to continue the effort," he said.
Everett, a retired U.S. Air Force navigator, said the decision to close the state police aviation unit did not make operational sense and was made without proper analysis.
Thomas J. Hart, authority executive director, said the door remains open for the aviation unit's return.
"There's always that opportunity for them to come back," he said. "We have additional facilities, or we can build a bigger facility."