GEORGETOWN—Starting in the spring of 2014, Georgetown residents could start hearing and seeing some very large aircraft overhead as heavy planes come in for a landing at the Sussex County Airport.
On Friday state officials gathered in Georgetown to break ground on a 500-foot extension of the airport’s 5,000-foot main runway that will accommodate the landing of larger airplanes such as Boeing 757s and 737s at the former Navy airfield.
The $4.4 million runway extension is part of a $25 million airport modernization plan that will phase in other improvements as well, including redesigned taxiways and better lighting. The airport is planning a second 500-foot extension by 2017 that will further extend the main runway to 6,000 feet.
Governor Jack Markell, Senator Tom Carper, Representative John Carney, Delaware Transportation Secretary Shailen Bhatt, and other officials were present on Friday to celebrate the project and its potential benefits to the regional economy.
“It’s a really important thing for Sussex County and the State of Delaware,” said Rep. Carney.
A major beneficiary of the runway extension is PATS Aircraft Systems, a manufacturer adjacent to the airport that does interior conversion work for large aircraft. PATS is able to service the larger Boeing 757s, but can’t bring them in at the runway’s current size.
Carney noted that the runway extension will enable PATS “to get bigger jets in here so that they can hire more people to do the work that they do.”
Another major beneficiary of the extension is Delaware Technical Community College, which trains PATS employees in airframe maintenance. DTCC plans to extend its training to engine and fuel systems by next year, pending approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Senator Tom Carper, a former U.S. Navy flight officer, said he is very excited about the opportunities the partnership will offer Delawareans. “That will be a very powerful combination.”