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Schell Aviation looks at lease with Delaware Coastal Airport

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The Delaware Coastal Airport in Sussex County was built in the 1940s. A new lease agreement could see some new hangars come online. | DBT PHOTO COURTESY OF SUSSEX COUNTY

GEORGETOWN — The Delaware Coastal Airport is looking to expand with two new hangars as well as self-fueling and other services, with a new agreement with a company with local roots.

The Sussex County Council approved a lease and aviation service operation agreement with Schell Aviation, a subsidiary of the Sussex County-based home building company Schell Brothers, last month. County officials had been working on the details on the arrangement for about a year, as Sussex County put out a request for proposals in 2021.

“We are interested in entering into a lease with any realistic aeronautical service that would offer maintenance, flight training, aircraft charter and the like,” Airport Manager Robert Bryant said. “It would not only benefit the county, but the region and the state.”

Under terms of the agreement, Schell Aviation would demolish two old hangars and build, at its own expense, two new hangars as well as a taxilane and apron. Each hangar would measure at 10,000 square-feet.

Rent outlined in the 30-year lease begins at $11,217.60, based on 28,044 square feet — a rate of 40 cents per square foot. Schell Aviation will not be charged rent for the 23,696 square feet of apron and taxilane in the first three decades. 

Schell Aviation has the option to renew its lease twice for an additional 10 year term. Rent would increase every five years subject to the consumer price index.

The Delaware Coastal Airport houses roughly 60 aircraft, ranging from single-engine piston planes to large corporate jets, and logs 35,000 operations per year. It is one of four public-use airports in Delaware, and the only one that has the land for development, Bryant said.

“It’s more realistic to enter into an arrangement with a company that has the resources to make this a reality, because the county can only do so much,” he said. “There’s limited infrastructure here.”

The agreement also allows for self-fueling and “self service activities,” as Schell Aviation estimated that it buys 18,140 gallons with its existing aircraft, but not accounted for in the main hangar lease. The actual fuel amount will be higher due to the increased storage space.

Back in 2021, Schell Aviation predicted it would store a C172 and a T206, but was also considering buying a Pilatus PC12 and storing its G550 there as well.

“We have been approached by the owner of a Cessna Citation CJ4 and a Hawker 400 regarding hangar space. Given we have not offered space in the current large hangar to date, we anticipate bringing in several small/medium jets to [Delaware Coastal Airport],” wrote Dustin Berlinger to county officials last year.

In a separate project, Schell Aviation is also building a 31,000-square-foot hangar adjacent to the terminal building to house its corporate aviation fleet. In addition, the company plans to offer jet maintenance and other aviation-related services.

In total, Schell Aviation will have 50,000 square feet of hangar space.

When it comes to the Delaware Coastal Airport’s future, Bryant said that while there is some interest in the area, spurred by the 175-acre industrial park built around the airport.

“There’s no plans yet, but some have approached us with their interest and opportunity, and some may have some merit,” he said. “We would want more information first.”

 

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