Virginia looks to expand landing areas, pilot population

June 20, 2013

Virginia is working hard to set the standard for state government support of aviation as a critical asset, and two recent developments highlight those efforts.

The commonwealth’s Department of Aviation, working in conjunction with the Virginia Aviation Board, has begun exploring opportunities to develop new licensed turf runways at existing public airports. Turf strips support a variety of operations, from warbird operations to giving student pilots a chance to cut their teeth on the grass. The commonwealth has determined it will need nearly 13,000 new pilots over the coming two decades to meet future demand, and state aviation officials believe expanding the number of turf runways (at present, there are only two) available is an important component of the effort to support pilot training and aviation infrastructure.

Virginia Department of Aviation Director Randall Burdette introduced the initiative to the Virginia Aviation Board, which provides funding for airport capital projects, in May. The Virginia Department of Aviation will continue evaluating the needs and opportunities to establish licensed turf runways in the near term.

As the turf effort moves forward, the state is also supporting aviators who prefer water landings. The Virginia Seaplane Pilots Association was established in May, with a splash-in at Lake Anna that included the election of Bill Fosdick as the new group’s president. Fosdick struck an optimistic tone in his inaugural remarks.

“Virginia is considered a seaplane friendly state and with a concerted effort by the 209 seaplane pilots already in Virginia we can make the business and sport of flying seaplanes in Virginia much safer for the pilots and citizens of this great commonwealth through education and preservation and cooperation,” Fosdick said in a news release.

One of the association’s first missions is to document in the commonwealth airport directory and Seaplane Pilots Association directory information on landing waterways, including contact information for those responsible for those waterways. Burdette and Virginia Department of Aviation Director of Flight Operations and Safety Steve Harris both attended the splash-in to support the new association.

AOPA Manager of Airport Policy John Collins said that AOPA strongly supports initiatives like these.

“It’s always good to see a state’s support for their entire landing area system, which includes seaplane facilities and turf runways,” Collins said. “AOPA looks forward to working with the Virginia Seaplane Pilots Association as well as the Seaplane Pilots Association and Virginia Department of Aviation on seaplane issues in the commonwealth.”

Collins congratulated Burdette and his associates on their efforts to date and commitment to making Virginia a model for others to follow.