Barnes purchased the airport in June and quickly began renovations, repaving the 2,600-foot potholed runway and cutting back trees on either side to create 250 feet of visibility horizontal to the runway. The airport terminal has also been renovated, with a lighting system upgrade, and new windsocks installed at both ends.
Monday night’s presentation put the focus on what the airport can be and also what Barnes said it won’t be.
The Hermitage recently purchased tax lots in the east tract from the town of Wilmington with the purpose of eventually expanding the runway to 5,000 feet. Barnes said the expansion will allow for a safer approach as well as an average of 12 flights per day. “Everything we’re doing here (with expansion) is about safety,” said Barnes. “Every pilot knows that length is safety. Crosswinds have always been a problem so the more length, the better to combat it.”
Barnes detailed how Deerfield Valley Airport will be able to take advantage of its proximity to other airports as well. With Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, the United States’ busiest small jet airport, 40 minutes away, as well as the proximity of airports in Winchester, NY, Hartford, and Rhode Island, the airport will be able to accommodate more midweek travelers, as well as skiers for both Haystack and Mount Snow.
Barnes also announced that the Hermitage has already entered into agreement with Tradewind Aviation, a charter flight company that flies jets from airports on Cape Cod to Winchester and Teterboro.
“When you look at the opportunity here for this valley, what we have here is a very powerful stipulation,” said Barnes. “When you look at all the other airports in Vermont, Okemo is 22 minutes from Springfield airport and Stowe Mountain to Montpelier is 33 miles. We’re sitting on the closest airport to two major mountains, within one mile, and there is nothing else like that in Vermont.”
Plans for the airport also include the installation of a precision approach GPS system for pilots flying in and out in bad conditions, which will help them navigate the mountains. The airport will be open from 7 am to 10 pm, although Barnes said he doesn’t expect a large number of night flights.
Barnes was quick to address what he called the “elephant in the room”: what the airport would not be. Currently the airport is classified as a B1 airport, which allows aircraft with a maximum weight of 12,500 pounds and a maximum tail length of 20 feet. According to Barnes, the airport will stay a B1 airport. Barnes also wanted to make clear that the airport would not be for Hermitage members only as it will be a public airport, an “exit ramp to the Deerfield Valley.”
Wilmington Planning Commission member John Lebron asked what the economic benefit for the town of Wilmington was, and whether the airport was intended to help the Hermitage create its own small town on the mountain. Barnes said that the Hermitage Inn only had so many rooms and that the Hermitage is looking into creating a rental car or shuttle service to local shopping and restaurants. Barnes also said the Hermitage and Haystack had no retail space yet, and visitors will naturally want to get out and see the towns after a day on the mountain.
The two biggest concerns the airport has stirred up are safety and noise.
One local resident asked what can be done to ensure safety, with the airport’s history of problems with snowmobilers, four-wheelers, and wildlife. Barnes said he was aware of the airport being like the “Wild West” in the past, but the Hermitage is installing a password protected gate to the runway, and the snowmobile trail nearby would still be operational, just better contained.
Noise was a guaranteed topic for Barnes to address as well, so he tried to nip it in the bud early, explaining that the aircraft capable of landing in the future will have little to no impact on noise pollution. Barnes said the Hermitage is having a sound study completed, but in the meantime he showed slides of different jets and their decibels.
Barnes pointed out that a King Air 300 jet which had flown into the airport before, comes in at 79.2 decibels, while the larger Cessna jets which would be able to bring more passengers to the valley, come in at 88.7.
“With the airport expanded it’s going to raise all the boats while rising tide at the same time,” said Barnes. “It’s for all the businesses in the valley.”
When asked whether Mount Snow Resort was behind the deal, Barnes pointed out that while it’s not an everyday occurrence, both agree this is a win-win.