AOPA intensifies effort to save Horace Williams Airport

September 6, 2005

AOPA intensifies effort to save Horace Williams Airport
Members urged to contact North Carolina legislators

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Photo by Jack Imperiale

As AOPA reported last month, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill snuck a last-minute anti-airport provision into Senate Budget Bill 622 that would allow the university to close its Horace Williams Airport (IGX), which serves chiefly as the base for the university's Area Health Education Center's (AHEC) Medical Air Operations.

The Senate language would allow the university to close the airport once AHEC has access to Raleigh-Durham International Airport. S.B. 622 has passed the Senate and is now in the House Appropriations Committee where budget deliberations are ongoing and expected to conclude early next week.

AOPA has been lobbying to protect the airport for more than three years. Last year AOPA, AHEC users, and a wide range of airport supporters were successful in persuading legislators to keep it open until a suitable replacement facility was operational. However, the new anti-airport language in the Senate budget bill, along with the recent unanimous vote of UNC's Board of Trustees to close the university-owned field, have placed Horace Williams in great peril.

"The future of Horace Williams would be tied directly to AHEC's presence on the field. Simply put: no AHEC, no airport - and no requirement to replace it," said Roger Cohen, AOPA vice president of regional affairs. "And as we have seen in other areas of the country - most recently in central Texas - replacement facilities can take several years to be identified, let alone built."

"We won't give up the fight to save this airport or replace it," Cohen continued, "but facing the opposition of the university trustees makes this an even more difficult challenge. It is important that state legislators hear from pilots regarding the importance of keeping Horace Williams open. We encourage all of our North Carolina AOPA members to take action now and contact the co-chairs of the House Appropriations Committee, House Speaker James Black, and their own state representatives."

AOPA maintains that Raleigh-Durham is not a suitable replacement because it cannot provide transportation access to health care services or the general aviation equivalent to Horace Williams. Moreover, AHEC uses GA aircraft to transport health care professionals across the state, including many rural areas, and moving AHEC operations to Raleigh-Durham would significantly delay UNC medical flights because of the growing number of scheduled airline flights and the worsening ground traffic congestion.

"Closing Horace Williams would create a huge void for business and recreational pilots and leave the Research Triangle the most urbanized region in North Carolina without a general aviation airport," said AOPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Representative Chris Hudson.

Contact your North Carolina legislators

Speaker Jim Black (R)
Hometown: Matthews
Represents: Mecklenburg
Legislative office phone: 919/733-3451
E-mail jimb@ncleg.net

House Appropriations Committee Co-Chairs

Rep. Debbie Clary (R)
Hometown: Cherryville
Represents: Cleveland and Gaston
Legislative office phone: 919/715-2002
E-mail debbiec@ncleg.net

Rep. Jim Crawford (D)
Hometown: Oxford
Represents: Granville and Vance
Legislative office phone: 919/733-5824
E-mail jimcr@ncleg.net

Rep. Beverly Earle (D)
Hometown: Charlotte
Represents: Mecklenburg
Legislative office phone: 919/715-2530
E-mail beverlye@ncleg.net

Rep. Edd Nye (D)
Hometown: Elizabethtown
Represents: Bladen and Cumberland
Legislative office phone: 919/733-5477
E-mail eddn@ncleg.net

Rep. Bill Owens (D)
Hometown: Elizabeth City
Represents: Pasquotank, Camden, Currituck, and Tyrell
Legislative office phone: 919/733-0010
E-mail billo@ncleg.net

Rep. Wilma Sherrill (D)
Hometown: Asheville
Represents: Buncombe
Legislative office phone: 919/715-3026
E-mail wilmas@ncleg.net

June 9, 2005