County honors retiring airport manager

Retiring Delaware Coastal Airport Manager Jim Hickin was thanked by the Sussex County Council this week for 14 years of service and presented with a proclamation.

“It’s a great honor to recognize him,” County Administrator Todd Lawson told council members, saying Hickin also served the country as a veteran of the U.S. Air Force.

“I want to thank the county council for supporting me. I couldn’t have done all the things Todd said I allegedly did without that,” Hickin said to applause.

Lawson praised him for administering more than $21 million in Federal Aviation Administration grant money to improve the airport, overseeing the expansion of the runway, leading initiatives to establish policies, conducting environmental reviews and earning his accreditation as an airport executive.

“I enjoyed working for the County,” Hickin told the Coastal Point this week.

“It was nice sitting 50 feet from where planes park all day and watching them come and go. I enjoyed watching the airport grow,” he said.

When he took over as airport manager, the focus was on economic development and the industrial park and “not so much on the aviation side,” Hickin said.

“The aviation side is an economic development driver for the county. Everything that goes on at the county airport has an impact on the county — its agriculture, tourism, courts, prison, recreation,” he said.

“When I first got here, we were doing the same thing we’re doing now, creating a new master plan for the airport. I have kind of enjoyed watching that come to fruition. And being able to learn things I didn’t know before. The wildlife management part, that’s been fun. It’s something new every day,” he said.

During his career, Hickin, 62, was a pilot for a regional airline in Washington, D.C., and before that, served in the U.S. Air Force for 22 years, flying planes. A retired lieutenant colonel, he and his wife, Sue, live in Milford and have three grown children, Jennifer, Jim and Beth.

No fourth career is planned. “Not if my wife has anything to do with it,” he said with a laugh.

“I gave up flying. It was more fun when I was paid to do it. I did have a chance to take my grandchildren flying — some of them. We’ve added more since I stopped flying,” he said.

One grandson is in the U.S. Navy, following in his grandfather’s footsteps.

Eric Littleton, who has succeeded Hickin as airport manager, called his time training with Hickin “invaluable.”

“He shared his extensive knowledge of the FAA’s processes for managing grants, airport planning and remaining within compliance of federal regulations, which differed a bit from my NASA/DoD experience. He definitely set us up for success moving forward at the airport, and I hope he relishes his time traveling and enjoying his family in the future,” said Littleton, 48, who served in the U.S. Air Force for four years.

He was formerly an air traffic controller at the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority and NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, and most recently unmanned aerial systems’ airfield manager at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport.

He and his wife, Olivia, live in Bridgeville with their children, Cash and Sophie, 7 and 9.

By Susan Canfora
Staff Reporter