By Linda Cicoira — Accomack supervisors revised rules, regulations, and minimum standards for the Accomack County Airport Wednesday for the first time in more than a decade and while a spokesperson for the local pilots’ association said the final result was an improvement over the initial draft, not all the pilots are happy with the way things work at the local facility.
Airport Manager Barbara Haxter said the update was needed for compliance with federal agreements. “We appreciate the feedback from tenants,” she said.
“After many changes, the final draft looks to be pretty good,” said Randy Powell, of Wachapreague, the pilot group representative. “Greatly improved.” He commended Haxter, County Administrator Mike Mason, and others for their “goodwill. We appreciate the cooperation very much.”
But pilot Charles Simanski, of Onley, a 45-year pilot, was not so generous. “Our ability to function here is being diminished,” he said, complaining electricity is not available at the newly designated airplane wash area so one can’t vacuum or use other tools. For years, he said, the airport has had a self-service fuel pump but the county still pays someone to sit in the office and walk out when it is used. The prices are nearly $1 above other places. “It’s driving people away.” He said maps are not available. “No pilots’ shop … No supplies. Nothing for kids even. You want to get a copy of the regulations, there’s just nothing.”
“Currently there are more aircraft than we have hangar space,” said David Bright, a pilot from Wachapreague. Despite the long list of local pilots waiting for a hangar, one was rented to an out-of-state resident with a plane that was not registered in Virginia, according to… “We have aircraft owners who have been on the ramp for up to six years … paying tie-down fees. And they were bypassed. I am on the waiting list. I am not next … policies that are put out are not being followed.”
“The airport has been neglected for a long time,” said Jim Kaczmarek, a pilot from Parksley. He was happy to hear Mason’s report about an Oceana aircraft maintenance group that volunteered to paint the Navy A-4 jet displayed at the county airport and provide the paint with which to do the job. An initial estimate for the work was $50,000. The county will only be responsible for the cost of housing for the workers for about a week. Mason said Haxter was the one who set up the solution. Kaczmarek said he talked to Haxter about getting a group to paint it three years ago with no luck. “Whoever made that happen on the board, I want to thank you.”
Dwayne McCullough, of Onancock, a 10-year pilot, appreciates efforts to modify the rules and boasted about the pilots’ association. “Those guys do a lot of good,” he said mentioning aviation badges for Boy Scouts with 300 kids being flown at the expense of the pilots. “Some flew water to Tangier when its system was down … It is a resource the county can use.” McCullough said a group studying the possibility of oil spills contacted the association to see if the pilots would be able to spot any. “There are lots of other opportunities,” he added.
In other action, the supervisors increased rates for the Central Accomack Service Area by 4% to $22.57 per one thousand gallons. The move was made after Onancock increased its rate to the county by the same amount.
The county received another $10,000 grant for the demolition of the old Whispering Pines Motel, Mason said. The demolition will be completed by July 7, weather permitting.
The future home of the voter registrar’s office and absentee polling site could be at Sawmill Park, Mason reported. A change is needed due to expanded absentee voter requirements. “The site has the preliminary approval of the registrar and electoral board chairman,” he said.
The supervisors also approved a lease with the county’s economic development authority for an unoccupied office at the county airport. The lease will begin Aug. 1 and will cost $1 for the year.
County staff recommended awarding the construction project at the Emergency Operations Center fire training center, near Melfa, to Delmarva Veteran Builders, of Salisbury, Md., which was the low bidder. The project is an addition to the existing structure and will cost $589,700.