March 2, 2024

Atkinson Bringing Charter & Repair Services to St. Mary’s Airport

Allison Swint, St. Mary’s Airport manager; Shanika Carr of Atkinson Aeronautics & Technology; Katherine Stormont of the St. Mary’s Department of Economic Development; Ken Reed of S. Hunt Aero; and Jim Atkinson and Bob Zaorski of Atkinson Aeronautics & Technology.

Atkinson Aeronautics & Technology is precisely the type of high quality maintenance provider Ken Reed of S. Hunt Aero set out to attract with his next hangar expansion at St. Mary’s County Regional Airport. Over the last five years, Mr. Reed has been adding numerous support facilities including General Aviation Hangars, Commercial hangars and office/flex buildings while the county has been expanding the runway, taxiway, and re-purposing the long underused terminal.

“We are victims of our own success and now we need increased support in the way of maintenance and avionic shops,” Mr. Reed said.

Atkinson is expanding its business to the growing air and technology park in California, MD. The addition of Atkinson’s repair and charter services will increase overall aviation capacity at the St. Mary’s airport. The company plans to open its St. Mary’s facility this fall, 2019.

Atkinson Aeronautics & Technology operates a 14 CFR, Part 145 Certificated Repair Station, currently headquartered in Tappahannock, VA. It offers comprehensive maintenance, repair, overhaul and modification services for all piston engine and light turbine aircraft. At their Tappahannock Principle Base of Operations, they provide full-service maintenance and modification and hold dealership agreements with a number of popular equipment vendors.

They are also a Factory Certified Rotax Engine Maintenance Facility serving the Light Sport and Experimental aircraft community. As a courtesy to its customers, they can provide pilot/owner air transportation to/from their home airport when an aircraft must be left overnight. Additionally, Atkinson holds a 14 CFR, Part 135 Air Carrier Certificate offering on-demand air carrier services for passenger, cargo, aerial photography and post disaster event aerial reconnaissance.

“We’re bringing capacity. We’re not just a new business. We’re making jobs,” Atkinson Senior Vice President Bob Zaorski said.

“We’re excited for this commercial expansion,” said Katherine Stormont of the St. Mary’s County Department of Economic Development, meeting with Atkinson principals at St. Mary’s airport earlier this month. “There’s a lot of alignment with industry, academia, and the St. Mary’s County Regional Airport expansion,”  Ms. Stormont said.

For both the company’s founder, Jim Atkinson, and Mr. Zaorski, there is also a bit of homecoming in their move to St. Mary’s.

Mr. Atkinson worked for various NAVAIR contractors starting in 1985, then in 2007 founded his “one-man business” as a consulting firm with NAVAIR. Since its launch, Atkinson Aeronautics & Technology has added services and capabilities to its customer offerings. With NAVAIR as its major DoD customer, the firm has grown to more than $5.5 million in annual revenues. And the company continues to grow. In addition to bringing expanded repair capabilities to St. Mary’s airport, Mr. Atkinson sees St. Mary’s as a good launching pad for expansion of on-demand carrier service for passengers and cargo. “The goal,” Mr. Atkinson said of the ultimate weight capacity he wants his carrier service to accommodate, “is four people with bags and golf clubs going 400 miles, to include connected aircraft WiFi services.”

Mr. Zaorski rattles off more than a half-dozen airports within easy reach of St. Mary’s airport, some with nearby government contracting firms doing business at Pax River. A chartered plane could cut two-day travel demands that can be required for a business meeting at Patuxent River. Cutting that time and overnight down to a day’s travel would save cash resources, but more importantly — time.

Mr. Zaorski, a retired Marine, has spent enough time at Pax River for his son to complete his entire education in St. Mary’s County schools. He recalls the boon down Route 235 when NAVAIR headquarters moved to Pax River in the late 1990s. While not of such a magnitude, Mr. Zaorski likened the feel of that earlier boon time to the growth potential at the St. Mary’s Regional Airport. “I get the vibe at the airport,” he said.

This is the St. Mary’s airport’s 50th anniversary. In recent years, St. Mary’s County and the state of Maryland have worked to blend academic and high-tech pursuits at the regional airport, including the addition of a UAS Test Site operated by the University of Maryland on the airport campus. Many of these components have been coming together as S. Hunt Aero began constructing the hangars, taxiways, and the county’s ultimate runway extension that has been long anticipated in the airport master plan.

“It’s a success story,” said Ms. Stormont of the addition of industry, such as Atkinson Aeronautics & Technology, to the academic and technology mix.

“This is a great way to celebrate St. Mary’s airport’s 50th anniversary,” Mr. Reed said.

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