Hangar fire closes Beaver County aviation school

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Sam Scriva's six planes were spared when a hangar at the Beaver County Airport caught fire Tuesday.

But inside, among the charred remains of his aviation training school offices, are important documents -- flight logs and inspections, to name a few -- that will keep the fleet grounded for a while.

"You don't fly the plane without the paperwork," said Bill Morrison, one of Mr. Scriva's business partners at ACES Aviation.

The fire started early Tuesday morning and destroyed the hangar's interior, where ACES has leased a space since 2009. Beth LaValle, director of the Beaver County Airport, said a Civil Air Patrol office was also damaged, but a fire wall helped keep the blaze from engulfing the entire structure.

No one was injured.

The fire, first reported about 2:50 a.m., was under control by 5:30 a.m. As many as 10 fire departments responded, according to a Beaver County emergency dispatcher. The airport maintained operations despite a morning power outage, Ms. LaValle said.

A state fire marshal, who will determine the blaze's cause and origin, was scheduled to arrive mid-afternoon.

Students at Community College of Beaver County attend the ACES flight school through a partnership with the college's Aviation Sciences Center.

Mr. Scriva, ACES president and co-owner, said his company is suspending operations for the time being.

"I've got 10 million things to do, and I'm on step one," Mr. Scriva said, noting that some students will be affected.

Outside the aviation center at the community college, students said more of them attended Moore Aviation, another flight school at the airport, than ACES.

But one student said he liked ACES because he could log more flying hours at a time, compared with the time constraints of the other school.

Back at the scene, employees surveyed the damage: a collapsed roof, a burned couch, Mr. Scriva's desk, heaps of blackened remains -- some exposed by burned-out exterior walls and maddeningly within reach.

"We're all kind of in shock," receptionist Debi Marshall said.

Their planes were stored in another facility, but a full-motion flight simulator, TVs, computers and much more inside the hangar are likely destroyed. While some documentation exists online, various flight records may be the hardest to replace.

"Even though the airplanes survived, legally, I can't allow them to fly," Mr. Scriva said.

Mr. Scriva's daughter, Jennifer, said her log book is somewhere in the remains and hopes she can retrieve it.

Fortunately, most students took their log books with them, employees said.

As one student at the community college put it: "That's the thing about aviation -- it's paperwork, paperwork, paperwork."

Corkey Romeo, CCBC's aviation program director, said it was too early to determine what will happen next to affected students.

Roughly 220 students are enrolled in the aviation center, he said.

Mr. Morrison said ACES was serving 45 to 50 students.

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Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1944 or on Twitter @borntolede.


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