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Water cannon salute or a mist? Delta touches down on Hilton Head to drought conditions

Drought greets Delta, Hilton Head’s newest airline, with diluted water salute

The traditional water cannon salute could not be performed due to water restrictions enacted by Hilton Head Public Service District.
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The traditional water cannon salute could not be performed due to water restrictions enacted by Hilton Head Public Service District.

The Lowcountry’s drought put a damper on some of the fanfare surrounding the arrival of Delta Air Lines as Hilton Head Island’s newest non-stop air provider on Thursday.

Instead of being flanked by two powerful jets of water that would create an arch for the landing 69-seat Embraer ERJ-170 to taxi through, a spray from the side sprinkled the jet. The water dried nearly immediately because of the searing heat after touching the blistering white fuselage and its bright blue and red stabilizer.

The pilots turned on the jet’s windshield wipers for two swipes.

While it wasn’t grandiose, it got across the effect.

Larry Yeager, operations officer at the airport, said the facility decided to use its stash of water to attempt the traditional water salute after officials were informed by Hilton Head Public Service District that water usage had reached peak consumption.

That meant that the Town of Hilton Head Island Fire Rescue — the real power behind the water cannon — could not participate because the department was restricted to use water only for emergencies or essential training.

The inaugural Delta flight was delayed about an hour on Thursday, but that was good for construction crews who were still working on Delta’s temporary terminal.

DeltaArrivesDM.jpg
Water sprayed from Beaufort County’s Aircraft Firefighting truck welcomes the inaugural Delta Airlines 69-seat Embraer ERJ-170 to Hilton Head Island Airport on Wednesday morning, the first of three daily direct flights between the island and Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Delta will offer direct flights to New York on Saturdays only starting on June 8. Drew Martin dmartin@islandpacket.com

About 20 minutes before the jet landed, crews building the terminal scrambled to move trucks and trailers so the plane could taxi to the disembarking zone.

American Airlines and United share the original terminal with the airport, but a recently received $10 million grant will modernize the facility.

Thursday was Delta Air Lines’ first of three daily direct flights between the island and Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Delta will offer direct flights to New York on Saturdays only starting June 8.

In a previous interview, Jon Rembold, Beaufort County’s airports director, said the new airline will mean more competition and the possibility of cheaper fares for passengers.

The airport announced Wednesday it received a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation for a terminal expansion project.

Last summer, the airport completed a 700-foot runway extension project to make way for bigger commercial jets. In the months after the project’s completion, the three national air carriers announced new flights.

“The runway extension is what brought them back,” Rembold said told The Island Packet earlier this year.

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Katherine Kokal moved to South Carolina in 2018 after graduating from the University of Missouri and loves everything about the Lowcountry that isn’t a Palmetto Bug. She has won South Carolina Press Association awards for in-depth and government beat reporting. On the weekends, you can find Kati doing yoga and hiking Pinckney Island.

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