Delaware Airpark receives $5.8 million grant

A $5,813,539 grant to update and expand Delaware Airpark will result in a new runway, its parallel taxiway, connector taxiways and an apron system, officials announced Wednesday afternoon in Cheswold. (Delaware State News photos by Dave Chambers)

A $5,813,539 grant to update and expand Delaware Airpark will result in a new runway, its parallel taxiway, connector taxiways and an apron system, officials announced Wednesday afternoon in Cheswold. (Delaware State News photos by Dave Chambers)

CHESWOLD — Federal officials, professional pilots and aspiring aviators came together Wednesday to celebrate a multi-million dollar grant awarded to Delaware Airpark.

The airpark, which serves Delaware State University’s Aviation Program, was given $5.8 million to create a new runway and provide renovations.

The facility is overseen by the Delaware River and Bay Authority and is used by NASA and Dover Air Force Base, as well.

The new construction is step 12 of a 13-phase process that began in 2004.

Standing in between two small planes in the hangar, officials lauded the grant and DSU’s flying program. DSU President Harry Williams cited the program’s 100-percent job placement status. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., called graduates “leading exemplars of what it is that American aviation offers to the world” and said DSU’s flying program is the best among all historically black colleges.

Some current students and alumni were on hand for the ceremony at the airpark.

U.S. Sen. Thomas R. Carper announced a $5.8 million grant Wednesday afternoon to update Delaware Airpark. (Delaware State News photos by Dave Chambers)

U.S. Sen. Thomas R. Carper announced a $5.8 million grant Wednesday afternoon to update Delaware Airpark. (Delaware State News photos by Dave Chambers)

Dave Harding, a 1995 graduate who now flies for UPS Inc., said the program and the airpark have come a long way.

The facility used to be so small that aviation students had to practice at Summit Aviation in Middletown — a major inconvenience, Mr. Harding said.

Since then, the local airport has grown enormously.

Sen. Coons credited it and the Aviation Program as shining jewels of Kent County. With the grant, the facility will be improved even further, officials said. Most of the money comes from the Federal Aviation Administration, with Delaware and the Delaware River and Bay Authority contributing some.

The new runway, to open in 2016 or 2017, will be 4,200 feet by 75 feet, and the current one will be turned into a taxiway.

Aviation contributes billions of dollars to the nation’s economy and creates more than a million jobs, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., said.

He and Sen. Coons couldn’t resists cracking a few jokes. Sen. Carper pointed out that, as New Castle County

U.S. Sen. Chris Coons and Delaware State University President Dr. Harry L. Williams were all smiles during Wednesday’s announcement

U.S. Sen. Chris Coons and Delaware State University President Dr. Harry L. Williams were all smiles during Wednesday’s announcement

executive, Sen. Coons had been “almost like the owner” of the New Castle Airport, while Sen. Coons noted his counterpart, who flew aircraft while in the Navy, was well aware of what an aviation program needed to succeed.

“One of the things that Sen. Coons and our delegation are focused on is creating a nurturing environment for economic opportunity, for job creation, job preservation,” Sen. Carper said. “And that includes infrastructure, not unlike the infrastructure that we see here.

“It also includes making sure we have the right workforce and the right skills to put that to use. So this, today, is really a ‘two-fer.’ A two-fer, as we celebrate both.”

Attendees cheered current students and graduates who were at the ceremony. Many graduates go on to fly with major airlines, such as United.

“When you graduate this program, you will get a job,” Dr. Williams said to applause.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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