Pilot talks airport facts

Published 7:03 pm Saturday, May 19, 2012

To the Editor:

I am writing in response to recent comments regarding Warren Field. As a pilot I purchase fuel, rent a hangar and pay property taxes to own an airplane, which contributes to the economy. I am keenly aware that the general public is highly uniformed about what general aviation is and is not, how it contributes to its community and what purpose it serves.

According to the N.C. Airports Association, there are 72 publicly owned and operated airports in the N.C. Statewide Aviation System. Eleven of these have commercial airline service; the remaining 61 serve the general aviation community. The majority of these airports are not profitable; however, they serve as gateways to commerce for the communities they serve. I understand the perception of the general public, but the airport currently cannot welcome large corporate jets who would relocate their businesses to Washington and improve our economy. The runways and taxiways need work to be maintained to the standards expected by all pilots. The building is an embarrassment. Many small airport buildings look like hotel reception areas as they function as the reception to our beautiful town. In reality, what the city is proposing for our airport only touches the surface of what needs to be done to make Washington a transient pilot’s stop to buy fuel, eat lunch and shop.

The City Council’s agenda recently discussed the proposals for running the airport. Unfortunately the city structured the offer so that no viable operator would apply since it would be impossible to make a profit under the circumstances outlined. The current airport “manager” does an outstanding job and is to be commended for continuing to work under the less than desirable and unstable circumstances under which he works daily. He is a delight to do business with and a true asset to the city. At this point, with no real offer on the table, the city would most readily benefit from allowing the current manager to continue (with a salary commensurate with his actual duties) and from spending some money to renovate the existing FBO building. This airport is a true gem and if Greenville is able to now charge $8 to stop there (or pay nothing if you purchase fuel) why can’t we become a more desirable and competitive location for pilots to stop on their way up and down the coast or from the west to east of the state?

I want to offer my services as a pilot to the local authorities to provide an opportunity to visit some of the 72 N.C. publicly owned and operated airports in order to do a comparative study of our facilities. It is very close minded to believe that just because one does not utilize a city or county facility, it is not needed. Many of the local retirees pay taxes which benefit our local schools, yet have no children in the schools. Maligning the airport, its function or its purpose is counterproductive to building and growing the local economy.

Blounts Creek