Bradford Airport – The regional gateway to iconic PA Wilds

Bradford Airport (IATA: BFD) is a public regional airport located 11 miles south of Bradford, serving Pennsylvania and western New York including Olean NY. The airport is owned and operated by Bradford Regional Airport Authority and handles daily flights to Pittsburgh and Washington-Dulles via regional airline Southern Airways Express. As of October 2022, the Palm Beach-headquartered Southern Airways Express is the only carrier operating flights from this airport.

A brief history of Bradford Regional Airport

During the Second World War, the United States federal government chose a site near Mt. Alton in McKean County for the emergency landing field, which later became a surplus item after the war ended. The City of Bradford purchased the airfield to construct the airport facility and inaugurated passenger service in September 1948. United Air Lines commenced the first scheduled airline flight with its Douglas DC-3s. Officially open on July 1, 1949, the airport started providing commercial service, and soon private individuals and industry joined. In 1953, Allegheny Airlines took over passenger services at Bradford on a multi-stop route between Buffalo, New York, and Pittsburgh. After the collaboration of McKean County with the City of Bradford to run the airport, it became Bradford-McKean Airport. 

The airport was later renamed Bradford Regional Airport following the proposal of a major improvement project in 1967 to make it a four-county regional airport, including McKean, Warren, Elk, and Cameron. From a military installation to a city & county airport to a regional source, the history of Bradford Regional Airport depicts a significant metamorphosis in less than 30 years.

In 2010, Elk County discontinued its share of airport funding yet wanted to remain represented on the authority due to the airport’s regional significance.

Bradford Airport Renovation- Featuring PA Wilds

In May 2021, Bradford Regional Airport completed its $1.2 million renovation project of the terminal building. The airport underwent a major facelift from a cosmetic and functional perspective without changing the footprint of the terminal building but adding new features. Initiating construction work in January 2020, the rehabilitation project included both interior improvements such as lighting throughout the building, a new gas fireplace, and boiler, new flooring stone columns, redesigned restrooms, the digital marketing place, additional rooms for non-aeronautical events, etc., as well as external improvements such as resurfacing of non-revenue parking lots, low maintenance materials, etc.

The terminal’s planned upgrades were discussed in May 2019 and funded by the Airport Authority and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Aviation. Adhering to development objectives outlined in Pennsylvania Wilds Design Guide for Community Character, the renovation project well-maintained the image of Bradford Regional Airport as ‘Gateway to PA Wilds .’It bagged the 2019 Pennsylvania Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship Great Design Award for allowing the big part of PA wilds in the overall appearance of the airport upon completion.

PA Wilds is an iconic region of more than six million acres of unspoiled forests and mountains offering tremendous outdoor adventures, abundant wildlife, rich lumber and oil history, charming small towns, 29 state parks, 50 state game lands, hundreds of miles of land and water trails and trout streams, etc. Bradford Airport is known for its association with its natural surroundings and acts as an entry point to Allegheny National Forest.

As the airport is the first thing travelers see on their arrival at an area, Bradford Regional Airport refurbished the rear terminal area by modifying floors, ceilings, and restrooms to echo the feel of the region’s surroundings and placing a piece of laser cut artwork depicting a scene from adjacent forests.

Also Read: Ramp on illegal ramp: Men allowed entering illegally by the staffs at airport

The signage and decorative features reflect the region’s beautiful rural location, abundant natural resources, and talented local artisans, adding to the facility’s warm and inviting appearance. Bradford Regional Airport supports PA Wild Center’s aim of developing an outdoor recreation economy and reflects its characters to create a ‘wow’ factor for visitors.

One of the newest additions is the PA Wilds Conservation Shop, which will offer items similar to that of PA Wilds Shops at the Kinzua Bridge Visitor Center. They are locally-made products and representations of PA Wilds’ beauty, bounty, and rural traditions.

Airlines serving Bradford Regional Airport

Southern Airways Express currently serves the Bradford Regional Airport, offering direct flights to Pittsburgh International Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport. On average, these hubs handle 260+ flights to an extensive network of more than 80 destinations. Bradford Regional Airport can be a gateway to the world with easy connection to many route networks. The dual hubbing enabled Southern Airways Express to tap into a robust Pittsburgh base while also bringing back the destination that proved to be popular with Colgan Air as United in 2007 and 2008. The duration of Bradford-Pittsburgh is about 55minutes, while Bradford-Washington takes around 1 hour 30 minutes. A few months ago, Southern Airways Express offered three Saturday Bradford-Big Apple flights for holiday festivities.

contour at Bradford Regional Airport  Bradford Airport
Photo from Official Facebook

In 2016, the airline commenced its daily passenger flights on the Bradford-Pittsburgh route using Cessna Grand Caravan 208Bs. In 2020, the US Department of Transportation made a statement that Bradford retained eligibility for Essential Air Service Program (EAS) for the next two years.

Southern Airways Express is a Florida-based commuter airline and an interline partner with American Airlines and United Airlines, allowing for single-point check-ins at the local airport for the entire trip and baggage transfers to the final destination.

Former airlines serving Bradford Airport include United Airlines, Allegheny Airlines, Colgan Air, Gulfstream International, Silver Airways, Sun Air Express, etc.

Facilities at Bradford Regional Airport

1. Terminal

Situated nearby to Water Tower, Bradford Regional Airport Terminal has state-of-the-art features that are getting attention from visitors with the addition of a new covered entrance with signing and lighting, new stone columns, a raised portico roof, and others. It just has one terminal for passengers to navigate, making it easier for them to stroll around. With less bustling energy associated with international airports, the airport doesn’t provide direct international flights but welcomes flights from all over the country.

The terminal at Bradford Regional Airport facilitates timely passenger operations and relaxation while waiting for flights.

The airport strives to offer a quick and hassle-free check-in process and security screening. Every departing passenger must pass a routine security screening by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to ensure safety and security.

 2. Runway

Bradford Regional Airport covers a total land area of 1,015 acres, situated at a height of 2143 feet. It has two runways, measuring 1,922 meters and 1,371meters respectively. One of the runways (6036 feet long, 150 feet) is on the list of the top ten longest runways in Pennsylvania and is equipped with a precision instrument landing system (ILS) and high-intensity runway edge lighting system (HIRLs). It can accommodate Boeing 737 aircraft.

The other asphalt paved runway, with the strength of 48,000 pounds of aircraft utilizing a single-wheel landing gear configuration, incorporates a medium-intensity runway edge lighting system (MIRLs).

3. Car rentals

ACE Car Rental facility allows passengers to pick up and drop off onsite at their convenience.

 4. Hangar, fuel, and ramp services

Other facilities provided by Bradford Airport include a hangar, fuel, and ramp services.

T – Hanger / Brick Hanger costs $30.00 per night while Forrest Oil Hanger is priced at $75.00 per night (May-Oct.) and $125.00 per night (Nov-Apr.)

As a fixed-based operator (FBO), Bradford Airport provides Avfuel branded fuel services, including Jet A with or without Prist 100LL Avgas.

For ramp services,

Battery Cart GPU is rated $50 plus $10/hr(Waived with fuel purchase). Similarly, De-Icing (Type 1) costs $50 HR/labor Plus $23.50/Gal. for fluid. The airport charges a $50/Hour labor fee for miscellaneous ramp service.

5. Runway Grill and Bar

Runway Grill and Bar is an onsite restaurant located at Bradford Airport offering an assortment of appetizers from crab cakes and onion petals to spinach and artichoke dip to pilots and passengers. It serves a full lunch and dinner menu and offers great views of planes during landing and takeoff.

Passenger movements

Being a regional airport, Bradford Airport doesn’t handle millions of passenger movements. From August 2019-July to 2020, the airport handled 3,270 passengers on the Bradford-Pittsburgh route. In 2018, the passenger number was 4,191.

 In December 2021, Southern Airways had a record December with 724 passengers to/from Airport. It was the commuter service airline’s highest monthly passenger count in the past five years.

Federal grants

The Federal Airport Infrastructure bill granted funds to Bradford Airport at the end of 2021 to invest in airport development, such as additional snow removal equipment, runway lighting updates, crack sealing projects, hangars, etc. The funding will benefit the airport by providing better connections domestically and to the rest of the world and strengthening the economy.

Bradford Airport is a critical link to provide safe, reliable, and efficient air service to McKean County and surrounding communities and connect them with the rest of the national transportation system. Providing a direct connection to Washington Dulles, the airport has helped recapture the lost business and international travelers. BFD Airport offers an authentic peek into Pennsylvania’s air-centric lifestyle and provides plenty of scope for commuting business types.

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