By Abigail W. Adams
Frank Costa, Wiscasset’s new airport manager, on the job Sunday, May 10. (Abigail Adams photo)
Wiscasset has selected its new airport manager, a post that has been vacant since longtime manager Ervin Deck’s resignation went into effect in February. Frank Costa, a part-time employee at the airport for approximately one year, will serve as the municipal airport’s new manager.
His goals are to continue to provide the high level of customer service the airport has become known for and to continue to lead the airport on the path toward self-sustainability.
Costa brings with him eight years of experience working with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines at JFK International Airport in New York and 21 years of service as a Houston, Texas police officer. He is no stranger to being profiled in the media – his work as a community police officer and in Houston’s mounted patrol division earned him many write-ups in the Houston papers.
Costa was born and raised in Long Island, N.Y. He went to JFK as a young man in search of a job. The smell of fuel from the aircraft and the sound of wheels touching down on the tarmac became addictive, Costa said. “Once you’re there it becomes a part of you,” Costa said. “It was outstanding to watch the aircrafts come in.”
Costa was initially hired to work for a maintenance company that serviced KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. His work ethic was noticed by KLM management and he was encouraged to apply to the airline for a job. For the next eight years, Costa worked his way up the ranks of KLM, starting in the warehouse and ending as a lead agent.
As a lead agent, Costa supervised a staff of eight to 10 people, oversaw loading and unloading of the aircrafts, which transported cargo as well as passengers, and handled the documentation and coordination with customs required for the cargo imported and exported by the airline.
The flight numbers of the airline’s 747s that arrived and departed JFK each day are seared in Costa’s memory.
A trip to Houston to visit friends turned into Costa’s next professional career. While in Houston, Costa learned the police department was hiring. Interested in working in law enforcement, Costa applied for the job.
For the next 21 years, Costa worked his way up the ranks of the Houston Police Department. His trilingual abilities – Costa speaks Portuguese, Spanish, and intermediate French – were invaluable to the department’s community policing efforts. Costa helped establish several “storefront police stations” in predominately Latino neighborhoods and built positive relations with community leaders.
Costa was selected to serve in the department’s special operations unit as a mounted police officer – an exclusive position Costa was selected for out of 5,000 officers. His position in the police department was extremely rewarding, and he loved every minute of it, Costa said.
After 21 years, however, it was time to retire. Costa moved north with his high-school sweetheart and wife of 39 years, Isabele Costa, to be closer to their son in Boston. The Costas have lived in Wiscasset for over three years.
When a part-time position became available at the airport, Costa jumped at the opportunity. The municipal airport has developed a reputation for providing high-quality customer service and Costa has had an active hand in cultivating that reputation.
Through services such as arranging for rental cars, directing visitors to local accommodations, and providing a clean, relaxing, and welcoming environment, the Wiscasset airport has earned the praise of pilots across the country.
The airport is also home to a tight-knit community of pilots. The camaraderie of pilots that call Wiscasset airport their home away from home and the high level of customer service are aspects of the airport’s culture Costa said he intends to maintain.
Through fuel sales, hangar and tie-down rentals, and leased office space, the municipal airport is on the verge of becoming self-sustaining. For the 2015-2016 fiscal year, the airport submitted a budget of $283,175. The projected revenue from the airport is $260,000.
Costa said he will not be involved in negotiations with the Chewonki Campground over obtaining an easement to clear trees growing into the airport’s protected airspace and campsites in the Federal Aviation Administration’s designated Runway Protection Zone.
The easement to address the safety concerns highlighted in the airport’s master plan is needed in order for the airport to receive federal funds to repave the airport runway.
According to Costa, the negotiations will be handled by the town manager, the airport’s consulting firm, Stantec; and the owners of the Chewonki Campground.
“It’s overwhelming,” Costa said. “If I became involved, there just wouldn’t be enough time in the day.”
Costa said he intends to devote his full energy to the everyday operations of the airport and “maintaining this jewel of Wiscasset without costing the taxpayers anything.”
“For all the years I’ve been involved, I still get mesmerized [by the aircraft],” Costa said.