Mid-State Regional Airport was created as an emergency landing field for pilots and later became the home of commercial flights from Centre County. With the construction of University Park Airport, Mid-State is now primarily used by private pilots and is a central point for the coordination of fighting forest fires.
The airport is situated on 484 acres between Black Moshannon State Park and the Moshannon State Forest. It is on Airport Road, off State Route 504 in Rush Township, close to U.S. Route 322 and Interstate 80.
In the 1930s, an emergency landing field was built in Rush Township to give pilots a runway to use if mechanical problems forced unscheduled landings among the hills and forests of central Pennsylvania. The airstrip, carved out of Black Moshannon State Forest land, grew into the state-owned Black Moshannon Airport, which opened in 1940 for military and private aircraft use.
During World War II, the U.S. Weather Bureau established an office at the airport, and in 1946, a flight-training school began holding classes there. Commercial airline service, which had formerly been provided by All-American Airlines to the State College Air Depot, was relocated to Black Moshannon under the new Allegheny Airlines brand. From 1953 to 1978, regular flights took passengers to Pittsburgh.
The facility’s name changed to Mid-State Airport in 1963. In 1971, the runway was expanded to permit larger commercial passenger jets to fly in and out, making travel more convenient, and making Centre County more accessible. By 1977, more than 20,000 passengers flew to and from the airport. Regular passengers who flew in and out of Mid-State enjoyed sharing tales of jeeps being sent out scare deer off the runways before flights.
However, the growth of University Park Airport near State College, which served a larger population area including Penn State, led Allegheny Airlines to move many of its flights there. Commercial airline service to Mid-State ended in 1981 and four years later the terminal was mothballed.
In 1988, the state signed over the management of the airport to the Mid-State Regional Airport Authority. The airport continues to be licensed and operated by the authority, which is made up of nine municipalities in Centre and Clearfield counties.
Starting in 1989, the Pennsylvania National Guard based a fleet of helicopters at the airport, but eight years later the guard moved out. The decline in airport business led to a search for options to repurpose all or part of Mid-State Airport’s space. In 2011, the airport authority discussed with Centre County officials investigating the possibility of working with the natural gas industry to make more efficient use of the land, but the question remains unresolved.
A series of annual auto competitions run by the Central Pennsylvania Region of the Sports Car Club of America is held at the airport from April through October. Participants range from autocross and rally enthusiasts to vintage and road racers to professional race drivers. A squadron of the Civil Air Patrol was based at the airport from 2007 until 2014, when it merged with the Nittany Composite Squadron, based at University Park Airport.
Today, the airport is primarily used by private pilots from the surrounding areas. It also serves as Centre County’s central point for the coordination of fighting forest fires, through the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Forestry.
Hopkins, Margaret Hopkins. “Airport faces unchartered future,” Centre Daily Times, April 5, 1998.
“Centre Region Long Range Transportation Plan 2030,” September 26, 2006, Centre County Metropolitan Planning Organization.
Centre County Government, “Underutilized Site Inventory,” August 2011 .
First Published: July 31, 2021
Last Modified: April 8, 2022