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AOPA honors N.C. legislature's speaker for role in saving airportAOPA honors N.C. legislature's speaker for role in saving airport

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AOPA Regional Representative Chris Hudson (left) presents a Presidential Citation to North Carolina Speaker of the House Jim Black.

AOPA this week honored the Speaker of North Carolina's House of Representatives, James B. "Jim" Black (D-100th Dist.) for his efforts to save Chapel Hill's Horace Williams Airport (IGX). AOPA Regional Representative Chris Hudson presented a Presidential Citation on behalf of AOPA President Phil Boyer.

In the citation, Boyer noted that Speaker Black's work "has resulted in more effective scrutiny of airport proposals by the University, a public study for evaluating the effect of major airport changes, and a moratorium on airport closure, none of which were possible under the University's prior policy."

Last spring, UNC Chancellor James Moeser announced that the university would close the public-use airport, claiming it had become a financial drain on the school. It planned to develop the land into a satellite campus, despite the airport's being home to a fleet of aircraft (MedAir) used to fly university medical school doctors around the state to rural health centers.

The AOPA president tried to convince Chancellor Moeser to reconsider, but when that failed, he arranged to meet with Speaker Black who guided legislation to keep IGX open for at least two more years through the legislature. The moratorium gives the aviation community and the university time to arrive at a collective solution to continue operation of the Chapel Hill airport beyond 2005.

Black was aided in his efforts by Hudson, Dr. Keith Taylor, the AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer for IGX, and others who organized an effective e-mail and telephone campaign to convince lawmakers of the value of Horace Williams Airport.

The legislation was included in the state's budget bill. It prohibits the state-run university from closing the airport until at least January 1, 2005, and from moving the MedAir unit without first consulting with the legislature and demonstrating the benefits such a relocation would bring.

The citation concludes, "On behalf of North Carolinians, air travelers throughout the country, UNC Medical School's Area Education Centers (AHEC) program, and AOPA members nationwide, more than 9,000 of whom reside in North Carolina, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association gratefully acknowledges you and your General Assembly colleagues and your astute cognizance of the need for and multiple benefits of Horace Williams Airport."

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