Saranac Lake is fortunate in its many geographical gifts. One of them is a bit unusual. We have a wonderful airport.
Most people regard their local airport as a necessary annoyance. It has a long drive to an un-lovely area, and the people are all rushed and harried, and someone sadistic designed the terminal.
But Adirondack Regional Airport is different in many of those ways. I don't know who designed the terminal, but it is a cute little building with Adirondack touches.
I don't have to figure out which parking lot would be the closest. There's only one. It's right outside the terminal door.
I'm here to interview Corey Hurwitch, Airport Manager. He's going to tell me all about the airport. My first question is:
Are there advantages to flying into a small regional airport?
I think that we can offer a more personalized experience for our customers. Many of the regular passengers are on a first name basis with airport employees and I don’t think you’ll find that at larger facilities. When looking at the largest airports, you’ll also find air traffic delays that are not a problem at the smaller airports. Additionally, we offer free parking in walking distance to the terminal instead of high priced parking with a shuttle running miles away from the terminal building.
What has the airport done to minimize the disadvantages?
We’ve worked to keep a reputable and reliable airline serving as our commercial air service provider. We’re just finishing up on our terminal expansion project which is updating some of our terminal and providing a more comfortable atmosphere for travelers. The project is also adding the latest security screening equipment.
I found one clear advantage that Corey didn't mention: the drive to and from. It's gorgeous!
Forest Home Road is one of the most scenic roads in the area. It is a fine alternate route from Saranac Lake to Lake Clear, where the airport is located, about fifteen minutes away.
I asked Corey what his typical day might be like.
the day always changes
There is no real typical day at the airport. Each day is different and I never know for sure what each day will bring. While there are certain things we do everyday, (fuel samples, runway inspections, security checks, wildlife inspections, etc.) there are a lot of unknowns each day, too. In the winter there is a lot of snow removal going on. Even after a storm, we have a lot of clean up to make room for the next storm. In the spring we do a lot of our training and catching up on projects. Our training includes FAA regulations, TSA regulations, wildlife hazards, fueling, deicing, firefighting, and more. The summer we spend more time mowing or working with aircraft (fueling, towing, etc.). In the fall when the busy air traffic season is winding down, we work on more projects again and prepare for winter. Our projects could be filling in ruts caused by plowing along asphalt edges, cutting trees, clearing the fence line, renovating terminal space, troubleshooting airfield lighting outages, cleaning, replacing wind indicators, etc. As the manager, I spend a lot of time overseeing what is going on to steer the workforce in the right direction. I also spend time overseeing contractors working on larger projects and trying to obtain grants to help offset costs of necessary projects.
Lake Clear is an local lake with all-season appeal. The airport has plenty of space for its needs. It also makes travel to and from the airport so scenic that visitors are ready to get out the camera within moments of their arrival.
I asked How is Lake Clear different in its services from big airports -- food, rental cars, etc?
simple, friendly, services
We try to offer the same services as the larger airports, although we may not have as many options. We have Hertz located in the terminal for rental cars as well as the Airport Café for great food. Our FBO (fixed base operator) offers general aviation aircraft most of the same services as the large FBO’s. These services include ground power for aircraft, fueling, deicing/anti icing, aircraft parking, hangar rental, or tie downs. There is also an aircraft mechanic located on the field and a flight instructor who operates out of our airport.
Since I've eaten breakfast there, I can agree that the Airport Café does have great food. A pet peeve of my father-in-law is that some places serve hash browns (potatoes) when a diner orders hash (made with potatoes,) and he considers this redundant. It seems the Airport Café agrees with him. Another point in their favor.
Breakfast is my favorite part of visiting the airport. I asked Corey: Favorite time of your day?
The favorite part of my day is whenever I am busiest. I enjoy being challenged and having a lot going on. This could be as soon as I walk through the door or late in the day depending on what is going on.
the coldest spot
Adirondack Regional Airport has yet another claim to fame. This is the home of a National Weather Service automated weather station which makes the national news on a frequent basis. That's because it's often the coldest spot in the forty eight states!
But there are some unique qualities which create this cold spot... which is why the rest of the area is often not as cold as recorded. When Saranac Lake makes the news for chilliness, the town temperature is actually 10 to 15 degrees warmer.
The weather station has been located in a bowl-shaped depression in the land. It makes it a perfect spot for an airport, and a weather station which wants to record the most extreme weather. Officially, it's called "cold air drainage." The heaviest, coldest, air seeks the lowest point in which to settle.
I asked Corey: Tell me about the coldest spot!
It does get cold here. The wind almost never stops blowing since it is so open and the automated weather observations station reminds us just how cold it is. Our employees normally start working at 4AM in the winter so they are here when it is the coldest. The good thing is the heaters in most of our vehicles work very well. The coldest part of the job is when we have to tow an aircraft because our tow vehicles are open cabs completely exposed to the weather. If you are driving against the wind it is even worse!
Fortunately, Corey and his team go out there so we don't have to. My last question was: What do you love about your job?
I love being at an airport being able to watch the aircraft take off and land. I love talking to the pilots who share their love of aviation and appreciate the work we do in maintaining the airport.
That's probably another way our Adirondack Regional Airport is not like most other airports. I think a larger proportion of the people... are glad to be there.