There’s something in the air …

Published 3:47 pm Friday, December 16, 2022

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This weekend’s Air and Drone Show at Washington-Warren Airport (KOCW) will highlight local efforts to capitalize on a promising economic resource and also offer some exciting demonstrations over our skies.

It’s no coincidence the event is being held on Dec. 17, commemorating the Wright brothers historic first flight on the same day in 1903.

The event is presented by the airport and City of Washington in partnership with Xelevate, a Virginia-based company specializing in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

The schedule is packed with local, regional and national dignitaries, including State Rep. Keith Kidwell, who was instrumental in helping secure $20 million in state funding to support airport improvements.

The event will serve as a public introduction to Xelevate, with the company offering drone demonstrations and a glimpse of the modernization of the airport’s economic development plans.

Traditional aviation performances are also planned by champion aerobatic pilots.

Educational breakout sessions are scheduled to highlight OCW-Xelevate’s partnership “creating opportunities for industry, academia, government and national security.” Inner Banks STEM Center President Al Powell will lead a session focused on how drones can “deliver careers with purpose and prosperous communities.” And NCDOT Division of Aviation representatives will discuss how North Carolina’s commitment to aviation makes it the “best for unmanned business.”

The day’s events are scheduled to run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Nearly 2,000 people had registered to attend the show by mid-afternoon Friday. General admission is free, but advanced RSVP through the airport’s website was required.

All of the positive buzz around Saturday’s events and excitement surrounding the future of the airport are due to the efforts of those with the vision to see aviation as a worthwhile investment.

That includes elected officials, the airport authority, airport manager Earl Malpass and a group of volunteers that spent more than two years helping craft the airport’s vision through its recently published Strategic Business Plan.

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Ashley Vansant is the publisher of the Washington Daily News. He can be reached at