County airfield ready for takeoff

Cambridge-Dorchester Regional Airport plans to grow to meet demand

These four men keep Cambridge-Dorchester Regional Airport running. Pictured Tuesday from left are Meighan K. “Chis” Chisholm Sr., airport manager; Snap Johnson, airport operations; Brandon Lane, airport technician; and Joe Budd, airport maintenance.

CAMBRIDGE — Team Blue is go for takeoff.

Cambridge-Dorchester Regional Airport Manager Meighan K. “Chis” Chisholm Sr. is proud of his crew, and proud of the county airport. Mr. Chisholm and his staff — Snap Johnson, Joe Budd and Brandon Lane — have stayed busy since Chis became manager in September 2015.

“I call them Team Blue,” Mr. Chisholm said of his crew in their blue work gear. “This team is steadily completing projects.”

In August 2015, the Dorchester County Council, Maryland Aviation Administration and Federal Aviation Administration agreed to Cambridge-Dorchester’s Airport Layout Plan, or ALP. The five-year plan at the airfield — airport code KCGE — guides its growth, and there is much growth in store.

A month after the ALP was finalized, Chis became manager and immediately got to work. At the time, the airport needed a good, fresh coat of paint. Mr. Chisholm and Team Blue sealed cracks in the runway and repainted airfield markings. Next, rust was removed from the two 12,000 gallon fuel tanks, and they were repainted. This past summer, a big hangar that once housed a paint shop got a new, insulated roof, and then a new frame and equipment for its giant doors. Team Blue continues to seal cracks in the pavement in other areas of the airport.

Along with ongoing maintenance, the airport is growing, and Mr. Chisholm, County Manager Jeremy Goldman and the county council have more growth in mind. Speaking April 4, Mr. Chisholm said 35 planes are currently stored at the airport. There are 32 hangars leased to private owners. A constant waiting list for hangar space, currently at 18 slots, is an indication of demand at the airfield.

“We always have a waiting list,” Mr. Chisholm said. “That’s one reason we want to build more hangars.”

Future plans include four more rows of 12 hangars to be leased for private use. According to the ALP, the new hangars will be placed between the current hangars and the fuel tanks near the south end of the field. A double-wide trailer that once occupied the area was recently removed. The ALP also includes two more fuel tanks.

Mr. Chisholm said when he was hired as manager, he was directed to prioritize the runway’s expansion. The runway is currently 4,476 feet long. The ALP includes lengthening the runway by 923 feet to the south.

“We handle light to medium business jets,” Chis said. The runway expansion, “would bring us up to larger aircraft, the full range of medium jets.”

According to Mr. Chisholm, an unused rail line that borders the airport presents a challenge to lengthening the landing strip. County leaders are working with government organizations to remove the stretch of railroad near KCGE.

In the meantime, the airport is growing in other ways.

In 2016, the size of the ramp off the runway was tripled. Also, 21 new aircraft tie-down spots were added at the parking apron near the airport terminal. Chis said KCGE is always very busy on the weekends. Many people fly in and grab lunch at the popular Kay’s at the Airport. The expanded plane-parking area allows pilots to keep an eye on their aircraft from Kay’s.

A maintenance shop is located at the north end of the field. A narrow service road was constructed to access the shop when the parking apron and expanded ramp were built. The gate in front of the maintenance shop is brand new. Gates or chains to block other entryways into the airport were also recently installed. A security fence surrounding the entire airport, once the runway is expanded, is included in the ALP.

The plan also includes big changes near the parking apron. County Manager Goldman is negotiating with corporate representatives to eventually build three new corporate hangars near the airport terminal. According to County Council President Ricky Travers, talks are going well. The hangars will be built as businesses agree to move in. Mr. Travers said it’s just a matter of time.

“That airport is a huge economic tool because, just the basic part of it, the more planes that come and go, the more fuel the county sells which helps fuel the operations of the airport,” Mr. Travers said. “The airport, it’s been said by a lot of people, is a gem in the rough.”

According to Mr. Travers and Mr. Chisholm, many of the airport’s projects are funded by the MAA and FAA.

Mr. Travers said most of the airport’s customers are working people. When they come to Dorchester, they tend to stay in the county during their visits. Many pilots fly to the airport just to make a leisurely trip, meet other pilots, and get some lunch. According to Mr. Chisholm, a lot of the pilots who rent hangar space use their planes for work.

“The airport is the portal to expand the boundaries for financial flow,” Chis said. “It moves the business people in and their businesses. It brings in those who will hire local people.

“It’s about connectivity. It connects us with all of the other nodes of business. Without that, it’s Route 50, and a lot of the traffic on there is passing through, not stopping.”

Mr. Travers said he appreciates Mr. Chisholm’s passion for the airport, and the work of Team Blue.

“He is an awesome person to be in there right now,” Mr. Travers said. “A lot of things we’ve seen on paper are now coming to fruition.”

Sometimes Chis loses sleep while thinking about the airport.

“I love this place. I get excited about this,” Chis said. “My 3 a.m. to 4 a.m. is often when I wake up thinking of things. Usually, by the time I come in, the team has already come up with an excellent solution, and I didn’t need to worry at all.”

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