Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Light-Sport Chronicles: If You Build It…
...will they come? Time, work, imagination, and location, location, location will tell.
We're shooting the breeze inside the big, brand-new 80x80-foot hangar they've just completed—at their very own country airport. Solo and tandem skydivers flare and plop down onto the grass not 100 feet from where we sit. Parked on the ramp is Chris' new Quicksilver Sprint two-seat LSA sporting a robust turbo HKS 80 hp engine. A Piper Saratoga makes a low buzz down the 2,200-foot grass runway. Two Taylorcraft just flew off into balmy summer afternoon skies.
And Cody, no doubt the friendliest golden retriever I've ever met (and that's saying something), just flopped down on top of my feet for a rest and Personal Moment. "We call him Velcro Dog," says Chris. "Wherever you are, he's gotta make contact with you."
The view out the west-facing hangar door is a beautiful north-south ridge cloaked in a lush canopy of deciduous trees. Bruce and Chris own that, too. These two guys have a passionate ambition, and they're going all in on it: to build an aviation "fun park" that somehow avoids the economic pitfalls of traditional airports by actually sustaining itself.
The key word is "fun," and here's their plan: The admonition to maximize location, location, location is as endemic to success in aviation as everywhere else. The field is Harris Airport (identifier: 83K). A friend of the partners, Keith Harris, had a dream to develop the airport, too. He died five years ago in a plane crash, and Chris and Bruce bought it. In part, they wish to honor his name and vision. The field sits in the quintessential pastoral green farm valley, just minutes from a major New York tourist center: upstate's fabulous Lake George, named for King George of England, and the third-cleanest lake in the United States.
Lake George Village, a 15-minute drive west, serves up all the traditional tourist traps: lodging choices from tacky to top-end, campgrounds, multiple eateries, hiking trails, tons of water sports, souvenir shops, mini-golf parks and much more.
What makes Chris and Bruce think Harris Airport could be a thriving aviation business are two important numbers: 40,000 people per week visit Lake George from spring to fall, and 26,000 vehicles a day pass by on State Road 149, very close to the airport.
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