The Carroll County Regional Airport is ready for takeoff and smooth flying with the opening of a new 5,100-foot runway and the appointment of the airport's first manager, John W. Lucas.
Mr. Lucas, a recently retired U.S. Army airfield safety officer, began his job at the Westminster facility this month without benefit of an office.
But he got his first assignment immediately from the county's Board of Commissioners: investigate erecting a fence to keep the public from wandering onto the runway and airplane tie-down areas. The Frederick County airport has a fence separating the parking lot from the operations area, new Commissioner Richard T. Yates noted, and it appears to be an effective safety measure.
Mr. Lucas was hired because of his Army aviation background and his extensive knowledge of federal regulations, which will be invaluable as Carroll County proceeds with improvements to allow larger aircraft, including jet planes, to land at the airport and expand the overall business activity at the adjacent county Airport Business Center.
The new runway officially opened last month, part of an $11 million upgrade. Still to be completed are the conversion of the old runway to a taxiway, completion of electrical work and finishing soil erosion controls.
The next step will be to install a precision instrument landing system to permit landing of aircraft in bad weather, down to a visibility limit of 200 feet above ground level. Pilots can make sight-only landings now and cannot use the airport if clouds are lower than 800 feet. Building more hangars is also a priority for the regional airport.
To finance these projects, estimated at $2.5 million, Mr. Lucas will be expected to pursue federal grants. He will also act as coordinator between the county and companies that operate the airport, supplying fuel and hangar space. He'll also work with the newly expanded airport advisory committee in outlining development strategies.
The airport hopes to attract more fly-in customers doing business in Carroll County, as well as serve as a convenient pit-stop for small aircraft passing through.
These are worthwhile goals for making the airport an integral piece of Carroll County's economic development strategy.