LEHIGHTON (AP) - Byron Arner
has a word for the feeling that hits him when he
soars thousands of feet above the ground in one of the planes he's
flown almost all his
"When the electricity flows from the controls into you, you've got to have more," he
still feels the electricity in a cockpit, even after 30 years as an Eastern Airlines pilot and five decades teaching others how to fly.It's part of what keeps him involved in Arner Flying Service
, the second-generation business he
runs out of Jake Arner Memorial Airport in Mahoning Township. Byron Arner's
father, for whom the airport is named, started flying in Carbon County in 1928.He
built the company his
son continues, offering flying lessons, charter services and sightseeing flights.
The shock of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks still reverberates at the small roadside airstrip Arner Flying Service
calls home.Insurance costs have skyrocketed, interest in flying has dropped, and Arner
admits times are tough. Arner
believes business will get better.For now, it's mostly his
own determination - and that electricity - that keeps Arner Flying Service
in the air.
"This is a labor of love right now," he
Arner Airport "is a place that has a legacy behind it," said Dennis Sysak of Allentown, who flies out of the airport and has known Byron Arner
for several years.
caught the flying bug early, getting his
license at age 16.He flew in the Marine Corps from 1954 to 1959, then went to work for Eastern.
One wall of his
airport office displays pictures, mostly black-and-white, of each type of plane he
flew for the now- defunct airline.
airline days, Arner
commuted between Lehighton and the New York City area - by air, of course - so he
could give flight lessons in his
trained 500 licensed pilots, while the flying service claims more than 1,100 trainees. Arner Flying Service
today has about 30 students, about half of what it had in better times, Byron Arner
said.In the 1970s and 1980s, he
had up to 10 employees and seven planes.Now the flying service is Arner
wife, Louise, two part-time trainers and three planes.
The 40 hours of flight training needed for a basic pilot's license costs about $4,000, Arner
said.Early lessons with an instructor cost $120 an hour, while solo flying time goes for $80 an hour.
Charter service is another mainstay of Arner's
promotes it as a convenient way to travel, without having to deal with airline security or delays.Costs vary, but Arner
said a planeload of people can travel more cheaply than they can on a commercial flight. Arner
also makes money with sightseeing flights, which start at $30 a person for a local cruise, and bidding on government flight contracts for mapping and fire detection.The U.S. Department of Agriculture
has hired Arner planes for aerial mapping surveys across eastern Pennsylvania.
"It's like any business: You do what you've got to do," he
Someone has to fly all those flights, and it's usually Arner
.When paperwork piles up in the office, his
wife handles it, leaving him clear to take off.
An unpredictable, weather-driven schedule comes with the job.During the clear summer months, days off are rare.In the winter, he
might go 10 days without being able to fly.Arner estimates he
flies 800 hours a year, about what airline pilots fly. Arner
won't comment on sales.But asked to compare today's hard times with the past, the only comparison he
could summon was the oil crisis of the 1970s.
"Everybody thought we couldn't get fuel," he
said."We had to send form letters to everyone, saying we had fuel and there was no reason not to fly." Other post-Sept. 11 difficulties included a short-lived dispute with the Carbon County Airport Authority, which took over daily management of the airport from Arner in 1998.
The authority voted not to renew Arner Flying Service
's lease in October 2001, but reversed the decision after meeting with Arner
But it's also clear Byron Arner
still likes what he
does, and isn't finished doing it.
"I do it because I enjoy it," he