Airport to host air and drone show, unveils strategic plan

Published 2:56 pm Friday, November 11, 2022

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Washington-Warren Airport (OCW) will host a “first of its kind’ air and drone show Dec. 17, commemorating the Wright brothers historic first flight on the same day in 1903.

The event, presented by the airport and City of Washington in partnership with Xelevate, a Virginia-based company specializing in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), will feature both drone and traditional aviation demonstrations.

“This is a first-of-its-kind event designed to demonstrate the safe integration of UAS technology and its amazing capabilities, offering a cultural intro to drones through demonstrations, business partnerships and exposure to a target audience of government, military and industry executives,” according to a release from event organizers.

Traditional flight performances include aerobatic world-champion pilot Hubie Tolson of New Bern and decorated aerobatics champions Rob Holland and Patty Wagstaff.

“All three of [these pilots] are world-class aerobatic pilots. Each one will be doing about a twenty minute program,” OCW Airport Manager Earl Malpass said in the release. “That’s the manned part of the air show.”

Malpass said the show will also feature demonstrations to showcase the safe integration of drones into the airport.
“There will be live drone demos, such as a drone obstacle course,” Malpass said.

The Air & Drone Show is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m., with 3,500 free passes reserved for the public. More information is available at

The event comes on the heels of several big announcements by the airport.

In June, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a bill establishing the Washington-Warren Airport Authority. That made it a unit of local government, but allowed it to continue to receive financial support from the city.

The airport recently published its Strategic Business Plan, a document created by a group of volunteers working for more than 26 months under the leadership of Malpass to outline the airport’s future.

“A new airport manager came to Washington-Warren Airport and saw the potential and inspired local volunteers to lend their time and talents to help a forgotten city property to transition into Washington’s new economic asset,” said Roland Wyman, one of the volunteers that worked on the plan.

This spring the airport held a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate $20 million in state funding which was secured through efforts led by Rep. Kieth Kidwell.

“Before we finalized this document, word got out and it took on a life of its own, leading Kidwell to go out and get us the money for the capital projects,” Wyman said. “Kidwell’s passion for the airport as our new economic engine led to his connection with Xelevate, so this all started happening as a result of Washington-Warren Airport producing its vision.”

The plan can be reviewed at under “our vision.”