(March 5, 2021) Several proposed and approved updates to the Salisbury-Ocean City-Wicomico Regional Airport are expected to bring more revenue to the region and could lead to larger planes flying out of the Eastern Shore and across country nonstop.
Chris Davidson, the assistant manager of the airport, told the Worcester County Commissioners on Tuesday that a $31 million 6,400-foot runway extension that was approved just months ago, and is to be paid for by the FAA, will allow planes like the Boeing 737 to fly from Salisbury to places like Denver and Seattle. The extension also could allow a Boeing 747 jumbo jet to land and take off, although without much of a load, he said.
“It really opens up flight from here to California,” Davidson said. “The runway extension is going to pay for itself for decades. In reality, it’s probably the last runway extension that will ever happen at the airport. Airplanes are just getting better, but they’re not there yet. They’re going to need another 30-40 years of long runways.”
In addition to extending the runway, the airport is getting a facelift.
The sign into the facility was recently modernized, removing the old brick facade, and the beach-themed terminal allows people to come in and relax before boarding their flight.
Improvements have also been made to the hangars over the past couple of years.
There are also several projects taking place at the facility, including a new maintenance building for $3.2 million, replacing the roof at the Piedmont facility for $1.4 million, and the rehabilitation of taxiway A for $5.3 million.
The airport was also able to purchase a new Airport Rescue and Firefighting vehicle, or ARFF, for $726,000. The vehicle, Davidson said, can respond to a crash or fire in or around the airport, has a nozzle for fire suppressant, and can safely recover people from an aircraft.
The airport also has a new drone facility that opened in February. It includes a company that tests and certifies government-grade drones made by companies like Cessna.
Davidson said all of these improvements are needed in a region that has nearly 630,000 residents who live within a 90-minute drive of the airport. Every day, 1,100 visitors come and go from the Salisbury-Eastern Shore area, he said, and he and his team are trying to figure out how to get those people to utilize the airport.
Over the next 20 years, Davidson said there is a lot of planned growth to the facility.
In the region alone, he explained, airport activity generates $78 million in business revenue, 1,620 jobs, $15,134,000 in state and local taxes, and provides an average personal income of $84,000.
“Like you can see, airport is big business for the Eastern Shore,” Davidson said.