One small airport that once saw its future in jeopardy not too long ago now has opportunities to become a place for business owners to share their passion for aviation and help it grow.
A case in point is Nouman Saleem, owner and operator of ProFlite Aero Services, one of two new businesses that celebrated their grand opening at Braden Airpark in Forks Township this morning.
Saleem said he is looking forward to developing and influencing the next generation of pilots with his flight school.
“I come from the hospitality industry and hotels, flying is a passion of mine,” Saleem said. “I always wanted to do something with aviation.”
In December, Saleem had the opportunity to either build a new hotel in South Dakota or this. Saleem has been in the hospitality industry since 1992 and owns a group of hotels across the country including one that’s becoming a Holiday Inn Express on Fifteenth Street in Allentown. He also is a commercial pilot with a multi-engine rating. ProFlite has three instructors and nine flight students with little to no advertising, he said.
He is looking to grow the business into a small charter service next year.
“I’m fully gearing toward that,” Saleem said. “We will be a full charter company.”
Saleem plans to offer charter service that’s relatively local, offering destinations like Harrisburg, noting that it takes only 17 minutes to get there from Braden.
The business joins SpiritWings Aviation LLC in Hangar 2, a new company that offers services for general aviation aircraft up to light twin-engine aircraft.
Saleem said SpiritWings would provide maintenance service for its aircraft.
Aside from aircraft maintenance and repairs, SpiritWings also offers sales of aircraft parts and supplies.
The Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority, along with state and local representatives, talked about how these two new businesses represent a turning point for the small airport, which had been struggling to continue operating.
“Braden Airpark has seen its share of turbulence over the years,” said Thomas Stoudt, executive director of LNAA.
However, he said there is now a calmer atmosphere at Braden, which recently saw investments in more than $500,000 in improvements that rejuvenated the airport. These included the demolition of the old terminal building and other dilapidated structures, hangar and roof repairs, new paint and enhanced lighting.
Financial support for these projects came from LNAA and Northampton County.
The PennDOT Bureau of Aviation also pitched in with a $325,000 grant to the airport authority for construction of a new terminal building, which would open in a few years.
Lamont McClure, Northampton County executive, spoke about the need for pilot training and aircraft maintenance here and the importance of the educational component that the airport brings.
Matthew Dietz, Northampton County council member, spoke about how these businesses will help bring tenants and revenue to the airport.
“Twenty-three years ago, I started my flight training here,” Dietz said. “While it’s important to look back at the past, we can’t live in it.”