Since the 1960’s, the Warrenton-Fauquier Airport has sat on 450 acres in Midland, Virginia, just a hop from the Route 29 corridor, and less than two air miles from present-day Messick’s Farm Market.
The concept of building a logistically and structurally resourceful airport to bring vitality and economic benefit to a region is not novel. History has proven this over and over again in counties throughout the country, said David Darrah, airport enterprise director at the Warrenton-Fauquier Airport. This particular airport, which is the only public use airport in the county, has served the local area for six decades. Nearby airports are in Manassas (Prince William County), Dulles (Loudoun County) and Brandy Station (Culpeper County).
Even as tens of thousands of deporting and landing flights have circled the Warrenton-Fauquier Airport over the years since its inception, the Board of Supervisors for Fauquier County saw an even greater economic opportunity.
In the 1990’s, the airport was purchased by Fauquier government. Twenty-two years later, Darrah was hired for operations and management, as well as planning and capital improvements “to take the airport into the 21st century,” he shared. Recent renovations have been a long time coming.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to be the airport of choice,” Darrah said. “We want to show businesses coming into Fauquier – the art of the possible.”
The airport renovations were completed in January 2020. They include using renewable energy and giving back to the energy grid during the day, with solar panels feeding into the airport’s electrical system.
The airport offers a full-service fuel capability and two maintenance and avionics businesses. The terminal was previously adequate for basic travel needs, Darrah explained, but had not supported business travelers well. The new terminal now boasts showers, a large conference center, a catering kitchen, office space and a lounge. Controlled, vetted access – as well as improvements to the storm water management system, the hangar taxiway areas and runway – have enhanced the facility.
The capital improvements to the new terminal, which are 99-percent complete, remain under the county’s oversight and management, while day-to-day operations are the responsibility of the airport as a private enterprise. Darrah, who learned to fly as a teen and served as a Naval Aviator in the Marine Corps for more than 30 years, oversees and manages enterprise operations.
Enhancing the county’s economy
Darrah illustrated the activity level at the airport and explained how it helps the county economically.
“I have sold more jet fuel in the first six months since (the newly renovated terminal) opened, than I did in the entire previous year.”— David Darrah, airport enterprise director, Warrenton-Fauquier Airport
The airport is frequented by folks from surrounding counties and Fauquier citizens and their families – for local recreation, vacation and business travel. He compares recreational flying to recreational boating.
Additionally, businesses all over the Mid-Atlantic and the entire East Coast fly corporate staff in and out of the newlyrenovated Warrenton-Fauquier airport and terminal. The $14.8 million terminal project cost was made possible through federal funding in partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration, with funding from the Virginia Department of Aviation. These funds came through more than a dozen grants, in private donations, and a two-percent contribution from Fauquier County. Since 2013, the estimated total cost of the terminal that has been s and other airport renovations is $24 million.
The airport is not just for locals. Others who land and depart from the site include folks traveling longer distances that need a refueling spot, or architects and federal government employees sent to work in the Northern Piedmont or Northern Virginia. Many also use the terminal to be picked up by friends, which makes the weekends bustle with a family-oriented vibe, Darrah divulged.
Groups of travelers that fly into the airport to visit Fauquier County come for a myriad of reasons. They may be purchasing equestrian items, going on job interviews or visiting local restaurants. They will likely rent a car, grab meals out and do some shopping. Maybe they decide to stay in Fauquier overnight in a hotel. They will buy fuel for their rental car, fuel at the airport for their flight home and invest in Fauquier during their stay in a variety of ways. The airport serves as a conduit between economy, recreation, education, non-profit works, the public and private sector.
The airport serves as a landing space for hospital flights and emergency rescues when needed. It has the ability and capacity to assist the local and federal government with emergency relief efforts and cargo transportation, should a need in the local region arise.
To the 70,000 Fauquier citizens and thousands more that visit Fauquier every year, we say, ‘Roger, that.’
By Danica Low, contributing writer