April 20, 2014

New Castle County Airport: ISO Future Clout

Stephen D. Williams, airports director for the Delaware River & Bay Authority (DRBA) and operator of Wilmington’s New Castle County Airport (ILG), finds himself in an enviable position. Not only are ILG’s airport-owned hangars full, but aircraft management companies and fractional providers are asking for more space. Add to that, a fourth FBO is about to come online to service the operations by general aviation and guests of key tenants like FlightSafety International training and Dassault Falcon Jet maintenance facilities on-airport.

Accompanying the favorable business climate are airport neighbors that are fully supportive of Delaware’s only airport with commercial air service. Atlantic Southeast Airlines (ASA), operating as Delta Connection, began twice daily flights from the airport last June serving Atlanta with Bombardier CRJ200 regional jets. The closest commercial airline alternative is the Philadelphia International Airport, a 30-minute drive to the northeast. There is a quid pro quo however: “People want to see the airport perform and do its share to bring benefits to the community,” says Williams.

Maintaining performance in the face of continued growth at New Castle Airport (ILG), given the increasingly crowded Philadelphia-area airspace, is going to take a united front by the airport’s diverse user base. That’s the reason Williams has become the “guiding force” behind the creation of a regional group that may ultimately evolve into the likes of a Delaware Business Aviation Association. Williams spearheaded a similar effort in New York that saw the birth of the Long Island Business Aviation Association.

The group – comprised of the Delaware Pilots Association, a state legislature-created Delaware Aviation Advisory Board and others – had its first meeting in December. “It has been tried before, some years ago,” says Williams of a combined airport advocacy group, “but after one or two meetings, it dissolved for a lack of cohesiveness.” With himself as the glue, Williams is anticipating a different outcome. Along with ILG, the DRBA operates four other general aviation airports and facilities in both Delaware and southern New Jersey.

Though still in the incubation phase, Williams is anticipating the first tasks that a regional business aviation association will need to take on. One is securing independent standard instrument arrival (STARs) and standard instrument departures (SIDs) to and from the airport, an action intended to reduce delays for ILG operators.

 “As our airport gets busier, reliability means we’ll need independent instrument arrival and departure procedures, perhaps with altitude restrictions” he says. Getting approval for such procedures may hinge on the clout that only a group like the Delaware Business Aviation Association can muster.