Soaring to new heights

Published 11:37 am Wednesday, June 27, 2018

It’s a cloudy Monday morning in May when Leroy Baker, the Lunenburg County airport manager, walks out onto the path of the airport runway, which he has maintained since 2012.

He said during a May interview he has a daily checklist, which includes cutting the grass, hauling trash, removing any debris that might have found its way on the runway, and checks the beacon light, which signals to pilots that there is an airport nearby.

Baker said the airport was founded in the mid-1960s to support industry coming to the area.

The terminal, which was renovated in 2000, is compact but homey, with a table, chairs and various collages of airplanes, biplanes and helicopters that have paid visits to the airport.

Baker said the terminal acts as a good resting place for pilots after landing on the runway, and is just a door down from No Limits Skydiving, a skydiving center also located on the airport.

He said the terminal closes at sunset and opens at dawn. For pilots looking to camp overnight, Baker said he knew pilots and their families who have even pitched tents underneath one of the wings of their planes.

He said each year, students from Radford College will spend a weekend at the airport grounds, camping overnight at a camping area that has an outdoor fire pit, then skydiving at No Limits the next morning.

“Some of the best camping gear I have ever seen in my life,” Baker said laughing.

He said the airport also hosts cadets from the Civil Air Patrol, which has an annual summer program. “It’s a lot of fun,” Baker said.

Baker said in addition to the airport hosting pilots and thrill-seekers, a small station located close to the terminal also records the weather in real time.

Baker said the Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS) located at the airport monitors cloud placement and the temperature outside. He said pilots who receive a radio signal will be able to hear the weather report the AWOS generates.

Baker also said area weather stations use the airport’s AWOS to record accurate weather patterns in Lunenburg County.

The airport is set to see changes over the next few years, including runway paving set to take place over the years 2020-2021.

During the Lunenburg Board of Supervisors’ May meeting, County Administrator Tracy Gee offered a report of the airport, citing a recent meeting with Love’s Mill Supervisor Edward Pennington, Airport Commission Chair Jeff Parrish, Baker, Virginia Department of Aviation Executive Director Mark Flynn and Aviation Board Member Marie Therese Dominguez.

“They were very impressed and complimentary of our airport,” Gee said. “They did notice how much we need to do some paving, and we’re very positive about our plans for how we would like to go about getting the paving project done. We’re just trying to figure out the best way to spread the project cost over two budget years for their purpose and our purpose also.”

Gee said due to the department experiencing a reduction in funding, their funding for capital improvement has also been reduced. “But they do know this one is definitely high on their priority list because they want to make sure we stay in operation,” Gee said. Gee said the airport terminal is uniquely recognized by the department.

“One thing they noted was that they used the plans for our terminal, they use that for a lot of their small, general aviation airports when somebody wants to build an airport, they give them the plans that were used for our terminal,” Gee said. “So that’s a positive thing, and they just think it’s really charming and a good place for us to branch out and try to bring some business back to Lunenburg through aviation.”

Gee said the county is expected to allocate the funding for the airport paving for the 2020-2021 budget years.