May 23, 2002
AOPA has taken its fight to keep Horace Williams Airport (IGX) open to the North Carolina legislature. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which owns the airport, suddenly announced three weeks ago that it would close the general aviation airport "within weeks or months."
This week, AOPA President Phil Boyer and Regional Representative Chris Hudson met with the Speaker of the North Carolina General Assembly James B. Black to make the case for keeping the airport open for at least five years. Boyer also pledged to help secure federal funding for making needed airport improvements.
Boyer told Speaker Black that the situation at Horace Williams was similar to circumstances faced at Meigs Field, where a highly influential leader (Chicago Mayor Richard Daley) was trying to balance the interests of various communities. Boyer recognized that UNC Chancellor James Moeser faced a similar challenge.
He suggested that the university should set a fixed closing date for the airport five years from now. That would permit time to seek alternatives to closing the airport and allow airport users to plan for the future.
Boyer said that AOPA was also willing to work with the university to find ways to put the airport on a more sound financial basis.
The university intends to develop the thousand-acre Horace Williams property (which, except for the airport, is mostly wooded) into the "Carolina North" campus, to include a technology park, office, and classroom buildings, etc. AOPA suggested that maintaining Horace Williams Airport next to that development would make the technology park much more desirable to the private businesses the university hopes to attract. (A university consultant has concluded that the development plans and continued airport operation are compatible.)
Speaker Black said he would discuss the issue with several of the university trustees.
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