EASTON — Easton Airport Manager Micah Risher, along with Airport Advisory Board President Jack Pettit, updated the Talbot County Council on Tuesday, Sept. 24, on the latest happenings at the airport.
Risher started with the success of Easton Airport Day 2019, which an estimated 3,000 people attended on Sept. 21.
“Our ACE (Aviation Career Education) tent was very busy, and we had a lot of people visiting,” Risher said. “We had three flight schools that were there and showcased, so a lot of people visiting and asking how to learn to fly, and that is a good thing for the airport. We are starting to plan next year’s Airport Day, and we are meeting about it soon. We look forward to 2020.”
Risher then discussed the capital improvement, including the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airports Capital Improvement Plan. On June 5, U.S. Department of Transportation awarded a $5.5 million grant for Runway 4/22 improvements. This will complete the land acquisition for the Talbot County Business Center property.
The airport also is in the process of having fair market rental value appraised.
“We need two independent fair market rental value appraisers,” Risher said. That way we can ensure we are collecting the proper rents for the property.”
The wetland mitigation of 10.79 acres is complete. The airport is in the final stages of completing the financial assurances between it and the contractor.
The Obstacle Removal Program is ongoing and is continuing to negotiate with property owners to acquire avigation easements, access and removal agreements, and/or acquiring properties that impact runway surfaces.
“Our obstacle removal program is slowly churned along and has been going along for a couple of years,” Risher said. “There is a lot of properties involved. We are close to the point where we will start cutting trees, quite honestly, in the year 2020. It is one of those things the community been hearing about it. But by next year, the trees will be topped or moved around the properties of the airport.”
Airport operations include Trident Aviation, a Naval Academy flight program and Control Tower transition in to a new Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System FUSION radar system.
“The Nnavy’s Power Flight Program was successful. They ran approximately 160 students through,” said Risher. “I have reported earlier in the year that we are upgrading our radar, and that is complete and that radar coverage is actually down to the surface now. It was varying around 500 to 800 feet depending on weather conditions. With this latest upgrade, our tower can see the aircraft landing all the way down to runway, so that is a big safety improvement for the airport.”
Airport traffic is up 5.3% through the end of July and did over 44,000 operations.
The flight training decreased by about 3,000 operations, but Risher assured there are no great concerns.
“What that is, is just Trident found deficiencies in the program, and that is good,” Risher said. “They are not doing all of the pattern work in Easton. They are all based out of here. They do a bulk of it out of here, but a lot of them depart and they go over to Cambridge and Ridgely, and do some pattern work. So it’s kind of finding the efficiencies in their operations, which is why our ops count went down by a little bit. But we see that as a good thing.”
The total forecast for this year is about 73,000 operations.
The fiscal year 2019 year-end fuel statistics include Jet A sales declining by 6%; Avgas declined due to slightly less summer flight training; and this is the second year in a row more than 700,000 gallons were sold.
Risher said ACE training sessions will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays in October and the Maryland STEM Festival Open House will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 19. Both events will be at 29051 Corkran Road.
“Every Wednesday in October, we are going to hit different topics,” Risher said. “Next Wednesday, we kick it off with a basic overview of aviation and air traffic control. We are (also) taking part in the Maryland STEM Festival, where we are going to have multiple aviation experts like controllers, pilots and mechanics. Students can stop in and discuss aviation career opportunities. I have had a lot of people getting interested in aviation. We are spreading the word out there.”