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McDade Terminal - Truly A Family Affair
(News Article from The Times-Tribune, Jeff Sonderman - Staff Writer, May 21, 2006)

As the new Terminal Building opened at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport, there's a bit of history repeating itself.

It's well known that the new Joseph M. McDade Terminal Building is named for the longtime Republican congressman who helped pay for its creation. What's less known, however, is the role Mr. McDade's father played in creating the Airport many years ago.

In 1941, John B. McDade, the congressman's father and president of the Heidelberg Coal Co., donated 122 acres on which part of the Airport now sits. Most of the Airport land was previously owned by various coal companies. Many were less philanthropic than John McDade.

The Quinn Coal Co., for example, held about 296 acres and stubbornly demanded payment and insisted that the mined-out land would not be safe for an airfield. In a written statement from May 27, 1941, Mr. McDade said he donated the land for free "in the interest of national defense."

Many U.S. airfields built in the World War II era were motivated as much by military defense as they were by commercial aviation. The government funded construction of many airfields to develop a network that could be used by military planes if needed.

Thanks to land donated by John McDade and purchased from others, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Airport opened June 1, 1947. It's construction cost was about $8 million, equivalent to more than $75 million in today's dollars. There was no money left for a fancy terminal building, however.

Twelve years later, in 1959, the second terminal building opened at a cost of more than $2 million, a value of more than $12.7 million today. That terminal served well for the next 47 years, aided by renovations in 1982 and 1991.

As years wore on, however, it became obvious that the antiquated brick building needed a replacement. By then Joseph McDade was a well-tenured member of the U.S. House of Representatives and offered to help the Airport in his own way.

As he did so, he recalled his father's dedication to the airport. "My father was a very civic-minded fellow," Mr. McDade said. "He was very much in favor of coming into the new world."

A generation after his father helped create the Airport, Mr. McDade had the chance to help renew it. "The question was, what could we do to bring the Airport into the new world?" said Mr. McDade. The answer was a new terminal, as well as parking facilities and roadways.

Mr. McDade fought for several years to get money from federal budgets and grants, and to keep the goal alive.

In all, $48.7 million of federal funds were spent on the $80 million project, including the terminal, parking garage and other renovations. It was worth it, he said, because he shared his father's belief that a strong airport is key to any community.

"It can be a critical leg in any economy," Mr. McDade said. "If you can begin to build a new one, you can express some of the attitude of the community. I thought that was worth doing."