Aircraft Maintenance Solutions Opens at Luray Caverns Airport
The Luray Caverns Airport has undergone improvements and changes in recent years, such as the addition of 24 hangers in 2008, to the creation of the Luray-Page County Airport Authority just six years ago. Over the next six years, this regional resource could see more than $9 million in upgrades and more leaps forward than at any point in its 53-year history.
Thursday, May 6, 2021 local officials gathered at the airport to celebrate one of the key catalysts for the growth that is coming — the opening of Aircraft Maintenance Solutions.
“That’s the true life blood of an airport — a mechanics shop,” said Powell Markowitz, whose name has been almost synonymous with the local airport since he joined the airport commission (now the authority) in the early 1980s.
Markowitz remembers sitting down with board members around the turn of the millennium and comparing the low traffic in Luray to higher traffic at other small airports like nearby Culpeper.
“We asked ourselves, what do they have that we don’t?” Markowitz told the crowd gathered on Thursday. “The answer was a mechanics shop.”
The inclusion of a maintenance option for those who stop in Luray to fuel up or store their aircraft in local hangers has already driven up traffic at the airport since the new shop began work in January. That, in turn, sells more fuel — a key source of revenue that helps support the overall facility.
The shop offers general inspections for aircrafts, as well as maintenance ranging from oil changes to replacing parts or rebuilding entire portions of the craft. In addition, Kraus is one of only “four or five” technicians in the country that is certified to work on Beach Bonanzas (a high-end general aviation craft) by the American Bonanza Society.
“He has a great reputation,” Markowitz added. “Anyone with a Beach Bonanza on the East Coast knows about him.”
Equipment was moved into the building in late December, and they began work in January. However, Kraus said when only a single plane sat under the roof, he wondered briefly, “What have we done?” But then he invested $165 in postcards that he mailed out to potential clients — that resulted in $40,000 in work, and they have “taken off” ever since.
The Page County Economic Development Authority (EDA) loaned $60,000 in seed money through Pioneer Bank to Aircraft Maintenance Solutions in order to build the structure they operate in at Luray Airport. It includes space for a half dozen (or more) aircraft, offices, a front lobby and restrooms.
The Luray site also brought technician Matt Queen on board, who provides elevate avionics maintenance and repair, as well as an apprentice trying to become a certified airplane mechanic. They are currently looking to hire an installer. The EDA loan required that the shop add two additional employees within two years.
“We get people coming in from everywhere…they go out to eat, sometimes they stay a night, they buy fuel, sometimes they talk about coming back to visit…this is going to have a trickle down affect into the community, and maybe more economic impact that you might think,” Kraus said. “It’s going to spread money out through the entire community.”