The rising temperatures in the Northeast are a clear indication that summer is right around the corner, and for Martha’s Vineyard Airport (MVY) and its municipally owned FBO, that means things are about to get very busy. The Massachusetts island, long a summer playground for the Washington power elite and corporate CEOs, sees its population explode from 15,000 to 100,000 during peak season, which corresponds to a surge in aviation traffic. According to Ann Richart, the airport’s manager, 70 percent of its passenger enplanements occur between June and September, while August represents the peak, accounting for approximately 20 percent of the airport’s annual 40,000 operations. On an average busy summer day, MVY will see an average of 350 to 400 operations total with business jets and turboprops accounting for more than a quarter of them.
“The jets can be the really big fancy corporate jets, but when the airstairs come down, it’s not suits and briefcases, like you would see at most other FBOs,” Richart explained to AIN. “It’s people in their flipflops and their dogs and their kids and surfboards and everything else.”
“This is why they like to come to the Vineyard,” echoed Geoffrey Freeman, the airport’s assistant manager. “They can just blend in, they can just be their own person, so a lot of these people will come in on their large corporate jets and get in their beat-up old Volvo or Jeep. There's no paparazzi or large crowds, but most of them who have homes here just want to be able to enjoy their time away from the real world. We're not going to put the spotlight on them.”
While many of the flights are drop and gos, there are services available for aircraft that need them. Catering is provided by J&B Corporate Jets, the same company that operates the restaurant in the commercial terminal and provides aircraft cleaning and lav service for those that request them.
The airport started life during WWII as an auxiliary naval air station, and military aircrew practiced everything from bombing to mock carrier landings there. In 1949, it was turned over to Dukes County. The airport operated in the surplus buildings until 1999, when it moved into a new- build commercial terminal and FBO.
The 2,600-sq-ft private aviation terminal, which is open 24/7, includes a lobby, restrooms (renovated over the past year), and pilots' lounge with flight-planning area. While it doesn’t have a dedicated snooze room, the lounge, which is usually dimly lit, has comfortable recliners and a couch for an adult to recline fully. Amenities such as ice, coffee, Wi-Fi, newspapers, and for—four-legged patrons—dog biscuits, are provided.
The airport’s fuel farm holds 40,000 gallons of jet-A and 20,000 of aviation gasoline, and is served by a trio of 5,000-gallon jet fuel tankers and a pair of 750-gallon 100LL trucks. Last year the facility pumped more than 700,000 gallons of jet fuel and nearly 100,000 gallons of avgas. The airport is in the process of swapping one of its jet refuelers for a new model and it is trading in one of the avgas trucks for a 1,200-gallon version.
The airport has more than 12 acres of ramp space for its clients, which in the summer months includes commercial traffic from American Airlines, Delta, and JetBlue, and year-round service by Cape Air.
While it has no hangars for transient aircraft, the airport does have several that are leased out to local owners, and of the 78 aircraft based there, eight are turbine powered, including a Cessna Citation V, a group of TBM turboprop singles, and a pair of Bell 407 helicopters.
For the summer months, the airport will hire 10 extra staffers to bolster its NATA Safety 1st trained staff of 20, which can perform virtually all tasks required, from towing aircraft, to customer service, to airport maintenance, to running the airport’s water-treatment plant. “They do the runway inspections, they’re all qualified firefighters, and they do the fueling and take care of people, so they are an awesome get-it-all-done group,” said Richart.
Though summer is clearly the high point of the year for the airport, there are pockets of private aviation activity throughout the rest of the year, especially during holiday periods, as long as the weather remains cooperative. “A lot of the people who come here have their second or third homes here,” said Freeman. “Those have definitely evolved over the past two decades from those true summer homes to multimillion-dollar homes that are still seasonal but are easily reopened for special holidays.” He added that general aviation traffic is solid on weekends throughout the year, as the Vineyard is a popular destination for private pilots from the surrounding area coming in for breakfast. The island has also seen its share of visits from Air Force One, as it was a favored vacation venue for Presidents Clinton and Obama.