What’s up at the airport?

Published 5:08 pm Monday, August 19, 2013

To the Editor:

The local airport in Washington, Warren Field, is again in the local news. The City of Washington, which now is the official owner of this facility, is planning to rebuild the terminal building that was destroyed by a gust of wind in 2012. This terminal building was constructed a few years ago to replace the existing structure, which was deemed inadequate to serve the needs of the few people that use this facility. Fuel service was available for avgas and jet fuel. Aircraft maintenance services were available on the field. The old building that was the fixed base operation is still standing.

I was a student airman in 1973. The old FBO building — adjacent to the destroyed building and which is currently standing — was not destroyed by the wind gusts. It served my needs and others very well. In the early to late 1970s, there were two local companies that housed corporate airplanes at Warren Field and employed four or five commercial airmen living in the Washington area. There were two to three single-engine aircraft available for rent to students and local airmen. There was an aircraft maintenance facility staffed by one airframe and power-plant mechanic. There were two to three local flight instructors. This was in the 1970s.

Today, 2013, there are no local businesses with corporate airplanes that call Warren Field home. There is no fixed base operator, no aircraft for rent, no fuel service, no aircraft stopping over for fuel, no passengers stopping for lunch or fuel, no maintenance facility and no service of any description. The telephone is answered by a voice recorder.

Now, the city, which assumed complete ownership of Warren Field in 2011, wants to rebuild the destroyed terminal building with local tax dollars and grant funds. Why? The old office building is still there, and it can certainly serve the same function it served in 1973. It was less than 30 feet from the terminal building that was completely destroyed, and did not appear to suffer any damage?

Is there a plan to return to the airport to what it was in 1973? Is there a plan to utilize the airport to create a magnet for corporate aircraft to be based here? Are there any businesses in Washington that even own a corporate aircraft? Will the city make this property an asset by charging reasonable fees to operate a business at this location? The answer to all of these questions appears to be no.

There has been a lot of your tax dollars expended on this facility over the past 40 years, and in 2013 it is less of an asset to Washington and Beaufort County than it was in 1973. At one time there was an airport commission that was charged with the responsibility for advising the airport owner/owners how best to make the Warren Field airport a fully functional resource to the city and Beaufort County. I wonder where they are now and what are their recommendations?

William R. Leary