Skyward Aviation looks onward and upward

December 15, 2013
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Katie Roupe/Observer-Reporter
From left are Skyward Aviation’s Michele Wieser, director of marketing; Brianna Casciola, charter sales; Susan Corrado, co-owner and director of accounting; and Ronald Corrado, president & CEO. Skyward is celebrating its 20th anniversary at Washington County Airport. It is expanding and has plans to build two more hangars. Order a Print
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Katie Roupe/Observer-Reporter
Skyward Aviation offers charter planes, including the Phenom 100. In additon to charters, the business handles aircraft sales, aircraft management and Cirrus flight training and rental. Order a Print
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Photo courtesy of Brianna Casciola
Skyward Aviation currently has three hangars with plans to expand with an addition of two more hangars in the next couple of years.

Skyward Aviation arranges private charter service, sells and manages aircraft and provides flight instruction.

It also is turning on the jets – accelerating its game.

At 20, the company is experiencing a growth spurt, nearing completion of its third hangar near the entrance to Washington County Airport and planning to build a fourth and fifth over the next two years.

And Ron Corrado doesn’t want it to end there.

“We want to build more buildings and offer more services,” said the retired Army pilot who started Skyward on Dec. 10, 1993 – 20 years and six days ago.

This is a family-owned, family-run endeavor that has evolved dramatically from its beginnings — as a helicopter company, Skyword Aviation (note the spelling) — that offered rides and lessons and flew banners at local fairs.

Skyward is multi-faceted today, with 13 to 16 full-time employees, eight of them pilots. It is distinctly passenger-friendly, providing flights to individuals or small groups without subjecting them to lengthy waits or pervasive, invasive security hassles.

Corrado oversees operations and maintenance activities, and handles all aircraft sales and management at his South Franklin Township business. He shares ownership with his wife, Sue, the accounting director.

Their daughter, Brianna Casciola, is the charter sales representative who helped add to this aviation clan. “I married a pilot (Steven) here,” she said. ”Our family is so extended.”

Michele Wieser, director of marketing, is not related but is practically kin. She set up the pivotal blind date for Ron and Sue – at an airport, of all venues.

The company, like much of the nation, experienced some financial turbulence in 2008 and 2009, during the Great Recession. But Skyward survived and now thrives.

Washington County Airport is owned by Washington County and operated by the county Redevelopment Authority. Ron Corrado appreciates what the county does for Skyward, especially financially, but would like funding to be swifter. He is eager to build the fourth and fifth hangars to store more aircraft.

“I’m hoping the county realizes what we have here and that we are continuing to grow,” he said last week in the corporate offices, separated from Hangar 1 by a hallway.

“We have the support of the county commissioners, but the key in these times is to get funding. I see us growing, but not fast enough. The money is not flowing fast enough.”

Corrado would like to start building Hangar 4 in 2014 and Hangar 5 in 2015, but said, “the economy has to get better.”

When completed, he said, the five hangars will range from 6,400 to 12,000 square feet. Hangar 1 has 12,000 square feet, with 1,800 for offices.

Corrado, however, dismissed the perception that the ever-increasing Marcellus Shale play in this region is an unqualified boost to his enterprise. “That has been a roller coaster ride,” he said.

Skyward’s presence and performance have impressed the executive director of two influential county entities: Scott Gray of the county airport and Bill McGowen of the Redevelopment Authority.

“I’ve been here three years, but in that short period they’ve shown a commitment to growth,” Gray said. “They focus on charter and management of aircraft, which is tremendously beneficial to the airport.

“I think they’re a catalyst for growth at the airport becuse of the niche they have. This is great for us because more services will be needed – fuel services, maintenance and such.”

McGowen called Skyward “one of the mainstay companies at the airport. They provide an array of services and are in an expansion mode, refurbishing the old Christman Hangar and helping Dallas Airmotive to expand.

“That’s all good for the airport because that brings more airplanes there and more business.”

Ron Corrado’s business is rooted in his earlier career. He was a test pilot in the Army National Guard, stationed in the Washington area, and was responsible for training and maintenance. Corrado served for 21 years before retiring. He is still a pilot and instructor, but not for Skyward.

This is his one corporate interest. Corrado said Skyward once also shared a site in Florida, “but when the economy went down, we decided to concentrate our efforts here. You have to be at the helm of your ship every day.”

Casciola said, “We wanted to focus on this airport and see it flourish.”

Both appear to be.

Rick Shrum joined the Observer-Reporter as a reporter in 2012, after serving as a section editor, sports reporter and copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rick has won seven individual writing awards, including two Golden Quills.

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