Salisbury, Md.—No one can remember the last time this rural airport hosted a major community event. The probable answer is “Never.” But that all changed on Saturday, May 20th, when Salisbury Regional Airport in Salisbury, Md., shook off its shyness and said, “Come on over!” to families on the eastern shore of Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia.
And indeed they came. Bucking a blustery wind and unusually cool temperatures, more than a thousand guests arrived to inspect military and civilian aircraft, tour the control tower, drool over a long line of classic cars, and enjoy a free pancake breakfast. There were other activities, too, including helicopter rides and a well-attended “Rusty Pilots” seminar presented by the AOPA.
“Airports need the support of their communities, and this was our way of letting people know that we are here to serve them—that we are growing and improving in all sorts of ways,” said Dawn Veatch, the airport’s new manager, who has been at the controls for less than four months. Coming soon to the airport, she informed attendees, were new general-aviation hangars, remodeled spaces in the airline terminal, new food services, and a fleet of jet airliners which will
replace the venerable De Havilland Dash 8 turboprops that have served the airport for decades. The older planes, she noted, are retiring to make way for Piedmont Airlines’ newly acquired Embraer ERJ 145 aircraft. Piedmont is headquartered at Salisbury Regional and was the lead sponsor among some 40 organizations that funded and supported the Wings & Wheels event.
Mrs. Veatch, who holds airline-transport and flight-instructor pilot certificates, added that post-9/11 security measures have discouraged friendly public interaction with smaller airports, contributing in some measure to the nation’s current pilot shortage. Future pilots, she believes, often begin their romance with aviation at a tender age—and often at events just like Salisbury’s, where young children have their first opportunity to talk to pilots and closely inspect all kinds of aircraft. “I think I saw many future pilots at our event,” said Mrs. Veatch, smiling. “Some of them were elementary-school age, and some may have been in strollers.”