Coastal Airport head exits after one year for NASA job

Eric Littleton, front left, and Sussex County Councilman Doug Hudson look on as plane owner/pilot Ezra Rickards shares informaiton during the 2019 Wings & Wheels festival. Mr. Littleton, then the manager of the Delaware Coastal Airport, has left the county to return to Wallops Island as a civil servant employee with NASA. Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe

GEORGETOWN — Last summer, Eric Littleton was a very happy camper.

In July 2019 he landed what he considered the perfect close-to-home employment chapter in his storied aviation career as incoming manager of the Delaware Coastal Airport, owned by Sussex County.

Less than a year later, opportunity knocked with his ultimate dream job, and he is headed back to Wallops Island as an employee with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

“I had an opportunity to go back as a civil servant. It was a goal for a long time down there, working as a contractor — I always wanted to work for NASA directly,” said Mr. Littleton, 48. “The opportunity arose, and I took a chance. It all happened kind of fast.”

His last day as county airport manager was May 23.

“I wasn’t looking for anything. I wasn’t unhappy at Georgetown at all. I loved the team. I loved everything about working for the county,” said Mr. Littleton. “It’s just a career opportunity came up and everything fell into place, and I couldn’t pass it up.

“NASA has always had my heart. It was the dream goal that I wanted for so long. I kind of gave up on that and came back to Delaware, which was fine. It was a great move for the family.”

Former Delaware Coastal Airport manager Jim Hickin, who retired last October, has agreed to help at the airport on a temporary basis.
The airport manager’s position is posted and being advertised, according to Chip Guy, Sussex County director of communications.

With passion for aviation as an air traffic controller during his four-year tenure with the U.S. Air Force, Mr. Littleton a decade later began a diverse career at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility and the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (VCSFA).

There, he served in numerous roles: air traffic controller, surveillance coordinator/recovery director, and assistant airport manager for NASA, and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) airfield manager for the VCSFA.

Then came the move to the county-owned airport, which brought him closer to his family and eliminated long daily commutes from Bridgeville.

“I didn’t see this coming. I saw Delaware as my last career move. Then this popped up,” said Mr. Littleton. “They (the county) are a great organization to work for. Council was awesome; they supported my vision. It was a great gig. It was the gig I thought I wanted. I was asked, ‘What’s better about the job you’re taking?’ And one is not better than the other. It’s just different.”

He plans to keep in touch with Wings & Wheels, the annual fall festival at the airport, and the Delaware Aviation Museum.

“I like what their vision is. Their vision is outreach to the children,” said Mr. Littleton. “They care about aviation and bringing aviation to the people and the kids. That is one of my first passions.”