ABOVE PHOTO: Stephen D. Williams (Photo/Shutterstock)
By Kharisma McIlwaine
Philadelphia has always been a major hub for domestic and international travel. What many people in the tri-state area may not realize is that easy and accessible travel is also readily available in Delaware. The Wilmington Delaware Airport (ILG) located at 151 N. Dupont Highway in New Castle — offers customers additional travel options at affordable prices.
Stephen D. Williams, deputy executive director of the Delaware River & Bay Authority and the airport director for ILG, has been at the forefront of implementing policies and changes that are enhancing travel experiences for customers in Delaware and the tri-state area. Williams spoke with the SUN about his 40-year tenure in the field of aviation and transportation and the importance of providing and expanding travel options in Delaware.
Williams’ love for aviation and travel was a direct result of growing up near JFK airport in New York City.
“I think from a very early age, I was fascinated with aviation and the promise of aviation,” Williams said. “I was an amateur photographer of airplanes initially. Right out of high school, I went to work at the airport in a part-time job. This was the age of the 747s coming into existence. I learned to fly immediately thereafter as I left high school and started to work in the transportation field. My journey is really about transportation overall but aviation specifically. Like a lot of airport people these days, my goal initially was to become a commercial pilot, but I actually found that I enjoyed airports just as much.”
Williams is the third deputy executive director of the Delaware River & Bay Authority (DRBA) in DRBA’s history. As the deputy executive director of DRBA and the airport director for ILG, Williams wears many hats.
“I have oversight for all economic development,” Williams said. “Included in that is communications, marketing, public information and governance matters. I also serve as the secretary of the board. As the airport director, I have the five airports that the DRB operates — two in New Jersey and three here in Delaware. That really just involves growth and access for people in the aviation industry, people that own airplanes, folks that partner with us and those in the civil defense part of the business, meaning the Air National Guard or the military.”
“We also accommodate VIP aircraft,” Williams added. “As you know, Wilmington is the president’s (Joe Biden) home airport and he’s often home. There are also things involved with what we call our stretch goals, and that is air service development, cargo development, and things that create jobs and create economic impact for the community. So, the airports and what I do on behalf of the authority is create opportunities for economic impact and growth. In the Delaware sense, that translates into jobs, access to transportation and the creation of what I call quality of life metrics.”
“When I came to work in Delaware in 2005, it was impressed upon me that part of what was missing was access to air transportation and for people to not have to travel to Pennsylvania, Maryland or New Jersey,” Williams said. “That was something, if we had it available in Delaware, would make [the] quality of life that much better here. So, those were my number one and number two items on my list of things we have to get done here.”
Williams’ love for aviation, paired with his 40-year career in the field, gifted him a unique perspective on why accessibility for everyone is so necessary.
“I work so hard at making aviation and air transportation accessible to the common man and woman,” he said. “Back when I was younger, the thought of traveling to foreign countries and traveling on an airplane was a big deal. I remember when I was 9 years old, my mom made me put on a suit and tie to fly on an airplane to the same place I had just [flown] — the Caribbean. [In] those days, aviation was not accessible to everyone in the same way that Greyhound buses were at the time. What has happened is you look into how transportation and how air service has evolved. Because of deregulated environment and lack of government control oversite on the economic side, it has become accessible to everyone. It’s exponentially increased the amount of people that are traveling, and it’s made airports focus on the delivery of customer service. It’s made careers for people like me that try to match those two things — that try to match the airline with the airport environment and make the travel experience better for everyone overall.”
One of the ways Williams is helping make air transportation more accessible and affordable is through ILG’s partnership with Avelo Airlines.
“The airline’s in partnership with us — both of us have a vested interest in making this work,” Williams said. “That’s what you see in terms of the effort, the collaboration, the community involvement and we will continue to do things to ensure that the greater Wilmington community becomes familiar with this as their hometown airport. Avelo has also been great in offering special codes.”
Currently, Avelo Airlines offers nonstop jet service from Wilmington to five destinations in Florida which include: Orlando, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Fort Myers.
“What the airline will likely want to do is to build on that by adding more nonstop flights,” Williams said. “Right now, there are about two flights a day to different destinations. So, what you will hopefully see is them add more multiple daily frequencies to different destinations and maybe add for the first-time non-Florida cities nonstop, such as Chicago, Nashville, Myrtle Beach, Charleston and cities the greater region want to travel to.”
“We know that the people are here, we know that the density is here, we know that the per capita income is here, we know that the propensity to travel is here,” he said. “We needed to match all of that with airlines that wanted to be here, that are going to places that Delawareans wanted to go.”
To find out more information about Wilmington Airport (ILG) and to see what specials are available, visit: www.flyilg.com and www.aveloair.com.
Leave a Comment