Cynosure learns how local airport works

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 15, 2014

Kim Durden, Vector spokesperson, speaks to Andalusia  Cynosure Club asLouisa Baker looks on.  SARA Fire Chief, Greg Taylor and Lee Reeves, SARA Operation Manager (background), participated in the in tour as specialty tour guides.

Kim Durden, Vector spokesperson, speaks to Andalusia Cynosure Club asLouisa Baker looks on. SARA Fire Chief, Greg Taylor and Lee Reeves, SARA Operation Manager (background), participated in the in tour as specialty tour guides.

Members of Andalusia’s Cynosure Club did not have to go all the way to a Paris Airshow to view the Osprey, a half helicopter/airplane Wednesday, February  5.  They just assembled for a tour of Southeastern Regional Airport (SARA) and were present when the innovative Osprey set down for fueling on SARA’s 6000 foot runway.

Twenty members of the 2013-1014 Cynosure Club met Wynona Ballard, SARA office manager, for an afternoon tour of the 165–acre SARA industrial park.  The club program theme for the year, “How We Work,” is in coordination with Andalusia’s Smithsonian theme, “The Way We Worked.” The group program chairperson, Jeanie Metzger, and her committee chose SARA as one of the club’s “work” sites to include in their year’s format of programs.  Ms. Metzger, club president, Barbara Nichols, and hostesses, Nancy Jones and Sharon Hobson visited with the airport management, Ms. Ballard and Beth Merrill, SARA executive assistant earlier to set up a unique and powerful  tour agenda for the club.

The group assembled at the Covington County Economic Development (CCEDC)Complex  where they met Ms. Ballard. Lee Reeves, SARA Field Manager and SARA Fire Chief, Greg Taylor.  After a brief introduction of the day’s agenda, Chief Taylor collected the group in a tour bus and began the tour by taking them to the general airport terminal area where Ms. Ballard talked of recent renovations and uses. Mr. Reeves guided the tour group through the FBO (Fixed Base Operations) and maintenance areas.  SARA houses some 20 privately owned aircraft and provides maintenance for others.

Chief Taylor took the group by the fully equipped fire department.  He explained that the facility is manned by three firemen and meets standards set by the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA). The fire department includes 2 Amertek ARFF fire trucks, one 900 square foot fire station and one 600 square foot fire department office complex   The fire department focuses on large aircraft operations serviced by aircraft rescue and firefighters  who are ARFF certified .
As the tour continued, the group boarded the bus to cross the runway.  The bus stopped so that the group could observe several training helicopters in operation.  Along with offering helicopter training exercises, SARA partners with Enterprise State Community College satellite Campus for onsite training of A & P mechanics.

Next the group, exited the bus to enter the Vector Aerospace, an EADS company located in the SARA Industrial Park. Vector is an MRO facility which provides a fully-operational paint facility and full-service avionics support.  Vector occupies 77,000 square feet of hangar and administrative office space which also includes executive offices and conference rooms.  Kim Durden, Vector spokesperson guided the group through the facility.  Viewers saw personnel working to repurpose and up-date army and navy helicopters. Ms. Durden emphasized the company’s focus on security and safety, and in providing an eco-friendly work environment.

The club concluded its tour at SARA’s Heliport operations. There the group heard from David Craft, Instructor Coordinator for the Alabama Aviator Center of Andalusia.  Mr. Craft spoke on the educational potential of a teaching program which provides youth with opportunities to take classes at the Covington County Economic Development Center (CCEDC).  He emphasized the benefits the program gave students in allowing them higher education credits towards positions in the aviation industry.

While at the SARA Heliport facility, the group enjoyed refreshments provided by the facilities catering service and Cynosure’s hostesses, Sharon Hobson and Nancy Jones.

The group presented Ms. Ballard with an honorarium  in SARA’s name to be given towards the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

As the group departed, chatter could be heard referencing how informative the tour had been, what a great job the tour groups had done to prepare the tour, and how the citizens of the area should be so proud to call Covington County SARA’s home.

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