WILMINGTON — At the Wilmington Air Park, crews continue to revamp spacious Building F and install equipment as they work to roll out an Amazon air gateway this summer.
At Thursday’s Clinton County Port Authority meeting, Executive Director Daniel G. Evers said the Amazon project is on schedule and officials anticipate a mid-summer start to operations. The operation will include daily flights, and an on-site facility to sort packages bound for their next destination.
Also during the monthly session Evers reported that the air park’s runway visual range (RVR) system must be replaced. An airport’s RVR, he said, is essential to support maximum accuracy and safety in the landing and takeoff of aircraft.
“During the last several days the air park’s RVR system has ceased normal operations,” Evers said Thursday. He added they have, however, been able to address system failures and challenges to the system so that the RVR is functioning at effective levels at this moment.
Due to the age of the air park’s RVR system, there are no additional spare parts for it and so it must be replaced at a cost of about $485,000. While the Port Authority has the funds to pay for the purchase and installation of a new RVR, the challenge facing them is availability.
LGSTX Services’ Airports & Facility Maintenance Director Jeremy Heard said the estimated time frame is between four to six months for the air park to get the equipment, followed by a fairly quick installation.
Clinton County Port Authority Chairperson Walt Rowsey said the issue came up suddenly, and the biggest concern pertains to the upcoming increase in flight activity at the air park associated with the Amazon operations.
“How is that going to impact that growth period we’re going to see [starting] at the end of May?” asked Rowsey.
Heard replied the goal is for the impact to be minimal, and to get a new RVR system installed and operating before critical weather events start to happen.
The more problematic type of weather events are snow and fog, “anything that reduces ground-level visibility,” said Heard. In response to a question, he said a heavy rainstorm is not as much of a problem as a fog or snow.
On another matter, Evers and Jones Lang LaSalle Vice President David Lotterer — who provides leasing services for the Port Authority — reported they recently attended an air cargo conference in Las Vegas. Asked whether other conference attendees mentioned Amazon opportunities to him, Lotterer said “from time to time,” drawing laughs.
Evers said at this year’s air cargo conference, most of the people they spoke with “already knew who [Amazon] we have here,” so he and Lotterer told them about the additional capacity at the air park.
The Port Authority executive director said the convention yielded “some pretty interesting follow-up opportunities as well.”
Lotterer was asked what he thinks about the Amazon air gateway at the Wilmington Air Park in terms of the volume of Amazon business within a 500-mile radius.
“I think if we’re able to meet their expectations, which I believe we will, we’ll see a growing share of that [business],” said Lotterer.
In other Port Authority news:
• A year-end financial statement for 2018 was presented at the meeting. The Port Authority finished the year with an unencumbered cash figure of almost $3.9 million.
Rowsey offered some observations on the Port’s 2019 budget. Port officials are thrilled with the expected large increase in business waiting to occur with Amazon’s operations yet this year, he said, while they are also aware the Port will see more expenses related to keeping the air strip “up and viable.”
“We all know that is our largest challenge,” said Rowsey, adding he’s sure they will work through the challenges.
• Port Authority board members voted to award Evers a 5 percent salary raise based on an earlier performance review for 2018. Last year, of course, is when Amazon announced it would open an air gateway at the air park.
Evers publicly thanked the board for its decision, adding it’s the best job he’s ever had.
During the roll call vote on the proposed raise, board member John Settlemyre gave an emphatic “indeed” rather than the normal “yes”.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.