It’s official. The
official Oneida County Airport is now at Griffiss. Hooray!
Griffiss has the designation, but one thing, of course, is missing. What
Griffiss and Oneida County needs and deserves is scheduled airline service.
We have to go to Onondaga County or Albany County to get on an airliner and
here is this beautiful two and one-quarter mile long Griffiss runway, worth
million of dollars, just waiting to be used
It reminds you of a similar situation back in the 1950s. The airport in
Oriskany had the designation of official Oneida County Airport. As with
Griffiss, the airport in Oriskany had long runways and great facilities.
What the Oriskany airport didn’t have, though, was scheduled airline
Bob Peach changed that. Despite all those who said it couldn’t be done,
Peach took charge of something called Robinson Airlines, which had two
single engine airplanes flying between Ithaca and New York City, and turned
it into Mohawk Airlines, which became a regional airline flying a
multi-million dollar jet fleet throughout the northeast.
And he headquartered Mohawk at Oneida County Airport. Then Peach got a huge
maintenance hangar built, then a reservations center, then a headquarters
building, then a training center, then a hotel to house passengers and
Mohawk eventually became the leading regional airline in the U.S. In fact it
was Peach who coined the term regional airline. Mohawk was doing all sorts
of innovative things at the Oneida County Airport, things that surprised
people in the big cities. After all, this was rural Oneida County.
Those who know their aviation history know that Mohawk eventually became
part of what is now US Airways and that US Airways eventually stopped
serving the Oneida County Airport.
Enter Paul Quackenbush. Just like Bob Peach, Paul Quackenbush was a pilot
and a businessman with vision. He saw the void at the Oneida County Airport
and knew what to do. Like Peach before him, Quackenbush started with a
couple of small airplanes and a big dream. He called the dream “Empire
“One day we’ll be flying jets,” he told anyone who would listen.
Empire, under Quackenbush’s drive, another trait he shared with Peach, grew
Empire and by 1985 it was the second largest regional airline in the
country, and it all started at the Oneida County Airport, just like Mohawk.
Mohawk had its BAC-111 jets which made it easy for people in Oneida County
to fly anywhere. Empire did the same thing with its Fokker F-28 jets.
Also just like Mohawk, Empire would eventually be taken over by a bigger
airline. Empire became part of Piedmont Airlines, which eventually became
part of US Airways.
So now we have a new Oneida County Airport, an incredibly great airport.
Many - maybe all - of our elected and appointed officials will tell you the
reasons why Oneida County isn’t able to have scheduled airline service. What
would be better to hear is that one of those officials is developing a plan
to get scheduled airline service back at Oneida County’s Airport. It’s easy
to find people who can tell you why something can’t be done, not so easy to
find people who can figure out how to make something difficult happen.
What we need is a Bob Peach or a Paul Quackenbush.
Joe Kelly is the editor and publisher of The Boonville Herald & Adirondack Tourist and