Student helps land improvements at Vt. airport - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Student helps land improvements at Vt. airport

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It's time for takeoff once again at the Morrisville-Stowe Airport.

"And we're in the air," Pilot Harrison Barr said.

We took to the air in a Cirrus Aircraft XR22 to give us a bird's-eye view of the newly renovated airport. Flying us around-- a 19-year-old business student from the University of Vermont. He's been flying for four years and he's already piloting one of the most expensive personal planes.

"This is the most advanced general aviation airplane ever built," Barr said.

It was Barr's interest in flying that kicked off a chain of events eventually leading to the airport's renovation.

"I showed up at the airport here, not knowing anyone, with just an interest to start flying," he said.

Hoping to spread his wings, Barr told his dad about his dream. The problem-- the Morrisville airport had no flight school and a runway filled with holes.

"The runway had grass growing out of it. It had pebbles coming out of it. It had uneven surfaces. It had holes," said David Mendal, a flight instructor.

And so a deal was made between Harrison and his dad: "I build the airport. He teaches me how to fly," Russ Barr said.

Russ Barr called Vermont Aviation and his ideas made it all the way back to Montpelier, where Gov. Peter Shumlin got onboard with his plan. Russ Barr and his company, Stowe Aviation, have now leased the airport from the state for 30 years. They'll take over all day-to-day operations.

The airport closed in April, but Tuesday a ribbon-cutting celebrated the airport's reopening and first round of renovations, including new lighting, a new terminal, a longer runway and new taxiways. It's a $20 million investment through the FAA and Stowe Aviation.

"Aviation is a huge part of the infrastructure we need to invest in," said Shumlin, D-Vermont.

Stowe Aviation has future plans to continue renovations and build a flight school.

"I'm dreaming big," Harrison Barr said.

He's already realized several big dreams. He's the only UVM student to ever fly himself from Stowe to Burlington for his first day of classes. And what he loves about flying may surprise you.

"I love the thrill of aviation, just the sheer risk," he said.

I thought I'd heard him wrong.

Harrison Barr explained, " I like the idea that you lose your engine, very unlikely situation. What are you going to do? Where are you going to land?"

But his family-- they've got no worries at all.

"You have to spend time with him and realize, I should have been that mature at 18 and 19 years old," Russ Barr said.

The next wave of renovations at the airport will take 18 months, but the airport will stay open in the meantime.

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