A member of the pilot’s association around Sussex County Airport asked the Wantage Committee on Sept. 22 if the township was willing to send a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration expressing its desire for the property to remain an airport.
Members of the pilots association first expressed their concern to the committee that the current airport owner – Sussex Aviation LLC – is seeking permission from the FAA to close the airport and develop the property.
Jonathan Welsh, a member of the association, offered two suggestions to the council on Aug. 18: rezone the land specifically for use as an airport. He also said the association believes the airport can qualify as a historic site because it was the home base to the famous aviator Leo Loudenslager, an internationally renowned aerobatic pilot, who won the world championship in 1980. He was based at Sussex County Airport.
A sculpture of his plane is near the airport entrance.
According to AirNav.com, 25 aircraft are based at the airport, 22 of which are single engine airplanes. The other three are multi-engine planes. According to Welsh, in 2015, 100 airplanes were based at the airport. Under Sussex Aviation, he said airplane maintenance ceased at the airport, but flight instruction and skydiving have opened in its stead, and he said those businesses are “booming.”
Mayor Ron Bassani said on Aug. 18 that the committee desired the property to remain an airport.
Frank Catanese said making the airport an historic site would have more teeth than changing the zoning because then the township would have power over what would happen on the site.
“This body has certain things that we can do and things we can’t do,” Bassani said on Aug. 18. “This is a private entity. So even though, you may not like that private entity, they still have rights. Obviously, we can’t just go in there and say, ‘listen, we don’t like the way you’re running your business’ per se, but at the same time, there are things we can do to impact, and we’ll look into this.”
Messages left for Sussex Aviation were not answered.