Sussex County lands new airport manager

GEORGETOWN – From Wallops Island, Sussex County has landed its next managerial pilot for the county-owned Delaware Coastal Airport.

Sussex County officials Tuesday announced that Bridgeville resident Eric A. Littleton will assume controls as manager of airport and business park operations this October when current manager Jim Hickin retires after 12 years of service.

Mr. Littleton was chosen from a pool of five candidates for the job that oversees day-to-day operations of the complex near Georgetown, which sees some 35,000 landings and takeoffs annually from a variety of aircraft.

His first day with the county was July 15. Mr. Littleton was introduced at Sussex County Council’s meeting on Tuesday.

“As a Sussex County native, I am excited for the opportunity to join the airport team, continuing my career in aviation as the manager of the Delaware Coastal Airport and Business Park,” Mr. Littleton said. “I look forward to working with the county and FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) while maintaining the legacy of this local asset and bolstering the facility infrastructure to prepare us for an evolving industry.”

Mr. Littleton comes to Sussex County after having worked in various roles since 2006 at the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority and NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. There, he has served as an air traffic controller, surveillance coordinator/recovery director, and assistant airport manager for NASA, and most recently as the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport unmanned aerial systems (UAS) airfield manager for the WCSF Authority.

Eric Littleton

County officials said Mr. Littleton’s deep background in various capacities with the spaceport and NASA, his ability to develop policies, educational programs and manage projects, his familiarity in working with the Federal Aviation Administration and regional airport operators, and, more recently, his understanding of UAS systems and the future potential it represents to aviation and economic development, made him the ideal candidate for the post.

“We look forward to Eric continuing our recent efforts to modernize the airport and attract employers to the adjacent business park, and we’re confident he will help take our Delaware Coastal facilities to new heights in the years ahead,” said Sussex County Administrator Todd F. Lawson, echoing that Mr. Littleton’s background “made him an ideal candidate for this position. We look forward to working with you.”

The airport, built in the 1940s and utilized at one point by the U.S. Navy, is at present a general aviation facility popular with pilots of small aircraft and corporate jets.

For more than a decade, the county has made a host of multi-million-dollar improvements at the airport, from new tie-down aprons and state-of-the-art lighting to a new crosswind runway and extended main runway.

The latter project – extending the main runway from 5,000 to 6,000 feet – would accommodate larger aircraft, including Boeing 757s, which would fly into the airport for conversion work at manufacturer ALOFT AeroArchitects in the adjacent Delaware Coastal Business Park. The first of two extension phases has already been completed, with the runway now at 5,500 feet.

Mr. Lawson said the airport and its image in the aviation community have soared in recent years, thanks to the various facility improvements supported by the county council, as well as a re-branding effort in 2015 when the Delaware Coastal Airport moniker was adopted.

Through it all, the airport benefited from Mr. Hickin’s guidance and expertise, as a former pilot, a one-time project manager, and as someone who intimately understood aviation operations and how to work through the federal regulatory system.

“Jim has been a great asset to the county, and has really helped to propel the airport forward,” Sussex County Council President Michael H. Vincent said. “We wish him all the best as we turn to Eric Littleton to continue the mission. The airport and business park are true gems in the county, particularly from an economic development standpoint. So, it’s important that we have a steady hand guiding our operations and leading us into the future. We look forward to Eric doing that.”

Mr. Littleton holds certifications from the Community College of the Air Force, the American Association of Airport Executives, the Airport Councils International and the FAA. He expected to work closely with Mr. Hickin for the next few months before taking over full-time as airport manager later this fall.

“I look forward to working with Jim,” said Mr. Littleton. “I look forward to working with him over the next couple months, roll our sleeves up and prepare for the future.”

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