Eric Littleton, who comes with a background in aviation and work at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, will take the controls as manager of Sussex County's airport and business park operations in October when current manager Jim Hickin retires after 12 years of service.
Littleton of Bridgeville was selected from a field of five candidates to oversee day-to-day operations of Delaware Coastal Airport and Business Park near Georgetown. The airport sees 35,000 landings and takeoffs annually by a variety of aircraft.
Littleton worked in various roles since 2006 at the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority and NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, where he has served as an air-traffic controller, surveillance coordinator/recovery director and assistant airport manager for NASA. He served most recently as the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport unmanned aerial systems airfield manager for the authority.
“As a Sussex County native, I am excited for the opportunity to join the airport team, continuing my career in aviation as the manager of the Delaware Coastal Airport and Business Park,” Littleton said. “I look forward to working with the county and FAA while maintaining the legacy of this local asset, and bolstering the facility infrastructure to prepare us for an evolving industry.”
County officials said Littleton’s background in various capacities with the spaceport and NASA, his ability to develop policies and educational programs and manage projects, his familiarity in working with the Federal Aviation Administration and regional airport operators, and his understanding of unmanned aircraft systems and the future potential they represent to aviation and economic development, made him the ideal candidate for the post.
The airport, built in the 1940s and utilized at one point by the U.S. Navy, is a general aviation facility popular with pilots of small aircraft and corporate jets. For more than a decade, the county has made a host of multi-million-dollar improvements at the airport, from new tie-down aprons and state-of-the-art lighting to a new crosswind runway and extended main runway.
The latter project – extending the main runway from 5,000 to 6,000 feet – would accommodate larger aircraft, including Boeing 757s, which would fly into the airport for conversion work at manufacturer ALOFT AeroArchitects in the adjacent Delaware Coastal Business Park. The first of two extension phases has already been completed, with the runway now at 5,500 feet.
County Administrator Todd Lawson said the retiring Hickin guided the airport through a rebranding effort and major improvement projects, based on his expertise as a former pilot and project manager, and as someone who intimately understood aviation operations and how to work through the federal regulatory system.
Littleton, a U.S. Air Force veteran, holds certifications from the Community College of the Air Force, the American Association of Airport Executives, the Airport Councils International and the FAA. He began working with Hickin July 15 in anticipation of taking over as airport manager later this fall.