January 5, 2002
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill stunned much of the aviation community yesterday when it announced it would close Horace Williams Airport (IGX). Chancellor James Moeser said the public-use airport (which is owned by the university) "has become a financial drain and requires major safety-related improvements not consistent with the university's commitment to positive town relations."
The decision by the state-owned school came without official public discussion. Even the university's own "MedAir" unit (which flies Barons and a King Air from IGX to transport doctors and medical faculty to outlying areas) was surprised by the announcement.
"Horace Williams provides vital aviation transportation to local community members, tourists, alumni, and university guests," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Our more than 380,000 members nationwide, including many Tar Heels, ask the university to reconsider."
While the university said that safety and security improvements to the airport would be too costly, AOPA noted that there were other, much less expensive options to address the safety issues. "We believe all possible alternatives should be explored before deciding to close the airport," Boyer said.
"The association would like the opportunity to discuss this matter in person with Chancellor Moeser and university officials. We hope we can work together to evaluate the university's needs in a way that will provide for the continued operation of the Horace Williams Airport." [See also AOPA's letter to Chancellor Moeser.]
Pilots have formed a user group and launched a petition drive to save Runway 5/23 at Joplin Regional Airport in Joplin, Mo.
AOPA is urging Santa Rosa County officials who operate Peter Prince Field in Milton, Fla., to revise proposed rules to eliminate potential conflicts.
Youths ages 13 through 18 who are members of the AOPA AV8RS program can now apply for scholarships to help them achieve their aviation dreams.
AOPA thanks our members for their continued support in protecting the freedom to fly.