By Sterling McGinn
Newberry resident Glen Pittman is now at the helm of the Luce County Airport.
The Luce County Board of Commissioners, who oversees the airport, voted at their September 19 meeting to hire Pittman, who had been serving as the interim manager.
Pittman is originally from Sault Ste. Marie but has lived in Newberry for nearly 30 years. Pittman is retired from the Newberry Correctional Facility and took a part time job at the airport three years ago.
“Before I started working for the Department of Corrections, I took an exam to be an air traffic controller and got hired as one,” he said. “But I also got called for the Department of Corrections at the same time, so I went that route instead.”
The airport manager is responsible for maintaining the grounds and runways and completing necessary paperwork.
The Luce County Airport opened in 1931 at the location of the former potato fields of the Murphy-Gormely Farm. Originally all grass runways, the airport now has an asphalt runway as well as a grass runway. The airport covers 160 acres of land.
During the summer, the airport usually sees four to five aircraft per day and sometimes more. During the winter, the average drops to two to three aircraft per day.
“About any of the big businesses around here quite frequently have executives coming in,” Pittman said.
Pittman noted that there has been an ongoing extensive runway lighting project that includes the installation of a new rotating beacon. The beacon, which is LED, has arrived and will be installed at a later date.
“The lights on the end were redone, along with the strobes and the directional lights,” Pittman said. “The project got started last year and didn’t get completed.” The project was funded through a federal grant.
Pittman got everything in place and ready for the final FAA inspection. “A week prior to that, we had a lightning strike out here, and part of the damage from the lighting strike burned out all the new lights that were installed,” he said.
Until the new lights are replaced, the final inspection won’t be able to take place. New equipment is set to arrive on November 1.
In the meantime, Pittman put out a notice to pilots that there are no runway lights and that nighttime landings are not going to take place. “The only ones that were really affected were the Medical Guardian Flights,” Pittman stated. “A lot of their time is coming in around 1 a.m., so all Guardian Flights had to be rescheduled for daylight hours.”
Medical Guardian Fights provide access to several major health centers for the people Luce County. “They are here fairly frequently, and it is nice to known that that is available to the people of this county.”
Pittman’s goals are to keep the airport facility and grounds up to date and looking nice.
“I want pilots to have an enjoyable experience—the thing with small rural airports like this, a lot of it is sort of a word-of-mouth,” he said. “If you have pilots come here and they have a good experience, before you know it, you have other people stopping in.”
All hangars are currently rented.
“This is a fun job, and I enjoy doing it,” Pittman said. “You meet a lot of good people—the pilots are always friendly, and it is just a really nice retirement job to have.”