AOPA intensifies effort to save Horace Williams Airport
Members urged to contact North Carolina legislators
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)
Legislative office phone: 919/733-3451
House Appropriations Committee Co-Chairs
Rep. Debbie Clary (R)
Represents: Cleveland and Gaston
Legislative office phone: 919/715-2002
Rep. Jim Crawford (D)
Represents: Granville and Vance
Legislative office phone: 919/733-5824
Rep. Beverly Earle (D)
Legislative office phone: 919/715-2530
Rep. Edd Nye (D)
Represents: Bladen and Cumberland
Legislative office phone: 919/733-5477
Rep. Bill Owens (D)
Hometown: Elizabeth City
Represents: Pasquotank, Camden, Currituck, and Tyrell
Legislative office phone: 919/733-0010
Rep. Wilma Sherrill (D)
Legislative office phone: 919/715-3026
June 9, 2005