While outgoing Metropolis Municipal Airport Manager Jerry Caudle will be available to help with the transition, the new manager is no stranger to the operation.
Caudle officially stepped down from the position Tuesday, marking the end of a 40-year career at the general aviation airport northwest of the city.
Last week the Metropolis City Council approved the hiring of Wayne Helm as his replacement. Helm has also been a fixture at the airport taking care of the grounds.
Helm’s wife, Kay, will also help manage the business side of things. At the urging of Mayor Billy McDaniel, the council approved the couple’s hiring on a month-to-month basis, until a new mayor is elected next April.
“I’ve just always liked airplanes,” said Caudle, helping to explain his long tenure.
Born in Metropolis, his family moved to Chicago when he was 8 years old. He stayed there for the next 32 years, and worked as a fireman before returning to the area and the local airport.
His love of airplanes included model planes, which might have had something to do with his involvement in hosting a model jet plane air show at the airport for nearly 20 years.
“I had a jet show here for 18 years, and for 12 of those years it was the biggest one in the world, with over 200 pilots with 300 airplanes,” Caudle said, of the remote-controlled, model jet plane event which ended in 2006.
“We went and competed in Europe two times and won the world championship one year and had the most realistic plane there.”
Helm remembers those shows and the fact that “the model jets broke the 200-mile-an-hour limit right here.”
Those shows always attracted a large following, according to Caudle.
“You put that many planes in the air, it’s just fun to watch,” he said. “The air show went on for four or five days. It filled every motel in town and some in Paducah. All the restaurants were filled at night.”
Both men have had their pilot’s license.
“Aviation, well back in the 80s we all had planes, most of us did that flew,” Helm said. “But the expenses got to be quite a bit.”
There are approximately 22 planes hangared at the airport.
“All the planes around here are small (four to six passengers),” Caudle said. “The only business that goes on here is crop dusting.”
That doesn’t mean the airport hasn’t grown over the 40 years he has been the manager.
“When I came here the runway was 2,000 feet long,” he said.
“Now, it’s 4,000 feet and 100 feet wide. And, that doesn’t come out of anybody’s taxes, it comes from the sale of airline tickets. They take a percentage out of it for small airports like this one for the whole country.”
Caudle lives in Olmsted and has been commuting to work. He says his health is good and admits that it may be time to do “as little as possible” in his retirement.
“I don’t think the two of us could replace him,” Helm said, of he and his wife. “He’s probably forgotten more than we’ll ever know about it.
“Jerry’s always a phone call away if we need help.”