Ervin Deck, Wiscasset’s airport manager, announced his intention to resign in November. That resignation became official Monday, Dec. 15 when he submitted his resignation letter to Town Manager Marian Anderson. Deck has served as Wiscasset’s airport manager since 2008. His last day will be Jan. 31, 2015.
“Everything we’re doing here is something Erv has worked on,” Frank Costa, a part-time employee at Wiscasset Airport, said. “He set up what needed to be done. It is under his leadership that we were able to achieve what we have now.”
The list of achievements that have occurred under Deck’s tutelage is long. Deck helped Wiscasset assume control of the airport’s fixed-base operations, or its commercial end, in 2010. It is now a profitable enterprise.
He renovated the airport’s headquarters and instituted services, such as rental cars, that have garnered recognition and praise from airport customers from across the nation. He drafted the airport master plan, which recently received Federal Aviation Administration approval. He also helped secure emergency funding to fill cracks in the airport runaway this past summer, which kept the airport operational.
Deck is humble about his contributions to the airport. His facetious explanation for the praise received from customers is that Costa bribes them. He talks more about what he has gained from his tenure as airport manager than what he has given.
“The town has been an absolute pleasure to work with,” Deck said. “I have learned an awful lot. I’ve been an aviation planner for years and it wasn’t until I got involved here in the municipal end of it that I started to understand the big picture in how small communities operate.”
Deck moved to Wiscasset with his wife in 1996 after 36 years in the U.S. Navy. He enlisted as an air traffic control specialist, but was soon commissioned and worked in management, achieving the rank of lieutenant commander. “I’ve been in the aviation field for most of my life,” Deck said.
Deck became involved in the airport committee soon after moving to town. When a spot opened up, he was appointed to serve on it. In 2008, when the previous airport manager resigned, Deck was working part time with Stantec, a consulting firm for infrastructure projects. “I figured it would be an opportunity to keep myself busy,” Deck said.
The position has kept him extraordinarily busy. In 2008, the airport was divided between its municipal side and its business side. The airport manager was responsible for the municipal end of airport operations at the time. Deck said his responsibilities were primarily overseeing the airport budget and ensuring that the airport was in compliance with state and federal regulations.
Private businesses ran the airport’s fixed-base operations, such as fuel sales, hangar leases, and tie-down rentals. In 2010, when the business that had been running the fixed-base operations dissolved, Wiscasset decided to take it over.
“There’s an old joke about fixed-base operations,” Deck said. “How do you make a million dollars from fixed base operations? You start with $2 million. And it’s true; you don’t make any money in this field.” However, Deck figured out how to make Wiscasset Municipal Airport profitable.
His first order of business was transforming the airport headquarters building. “It was institutional in here,” Deck said of the building before its renovation. “It looked like a prison. No one even wanted to use the bathroom.” It is now a welcoming space complete with couches, carpets, wall decorations, and pellet stoves.
The second floor of the building was used for storage prior to Wiscasset’s takeover. It was renovated and turned into office space. The income generated from leasing out the second floor of the building alone is more than what Wiscasset had been receiving from the lease to private businesses to run the fixed-base operations.
Town backing enabled Deck to buy large quantities of fuel, enabling him to price it competitively. Wiscasset Municipal Airport is now one of the lowest-priced fuel outlets in the state and has captured the market along the Midcoast.
Deck projected that in a year, the airport sells approximately 40,000 gallons of fuel. “For a small general aviation airport, that’s quite a lot,” Deck said.
The airport has also maxed out its 16 available hangar spaces. During its peak season, it collects additional revenue from airplane tie-down spaces for outdoor airplane storage.
The changes have increased revenue for the airport from $32,000 when Deck assumed the role of airport manager to its current $340,000. The airport is now self-sufficient in its operations and maintenance costs.
Deck’s recent promotion at Stantec was the major impetus behind his decision to resign – a decision that was made definitively only recently, despite his previously submitted letter stating his intention to resign. In his new role at Stantec, Deck will manage a staff of six in general aviation planning.
Deck has kept his work at Stantec separate from his work at the Wiscasset airport. However, if Stantec is re-awarded Wiscasset airport’s consultant contract, he has stated his willingness to serve as Stantec’s representative to the airport. He also intends to help train his replacement as airport manager so institutional knowledge is not lost.
“It’s time for me to move on,” Deck said. “The airport needs younger people with fresh ideas, but I’m not going anywhere. I’m still going to be a resident of Wiscasset until they haul me away.”