Midstate families turn out in record numbers to survey planes at HIA

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. (WHTM) – We’re used to seeing them in the sky, far away; the weekend’s up-close look at planes had thousands flocking to Harrisburg International Airport.

On a day like Saturday, parents were more like chaperones.

“Alright Amelia, here we go! Hold daddy’s hand!” Seth Pantanelli told his daughter as they waited in line to take a look inside a UPS cargo plane.

Seth’s little girl, 3-year-old Amelia, ran the show.

Mom Valerie and Dad Seth were there more or less supervising.

“It’s fun for her,” Seth said in a rare break from following her from plane to plane. “She likes to see the airplanes.”

She especially liked the plane with her name on it.

“It almost says ‘Amelia,’ yep,” said her dad. Almost. The American Eagle aircraft had the words obscured by an open door.

Outside and in, many Midstate kids got their first personal inspections of the machines they see in the sky.

“My daughter here loves airplanes,” said Christine Cutuli, whose husband is an air traffic controller at the airport.

Families flooded the tarmac; by noon — with two hours to go — they’d beaten last year’s attendance.

“It’s interesting,” David Shaffer said, but added there were “long lines to get on some of the planes and things.”

“Every year it seems to be getting bigger and bigger and more popular,” said Cutuli.

That’s true: The first year, about 2,500 people showed up. Last year, about 5,600 came out.

This year, the third consecutive time HIA has held the get-together, the final tally came in just short of 7,500.

“Kids are really enjoying getting to go in the different things, the different planes,” Kendy Kovalik said.

There’s no telling how many people next year will bring, but count Amelia and her supervisors among them.

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