The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will not be closing Horace Williams Airport (IGX) in 2005 thanks to action by the North Carolina Legislature. This follows a three-year effort by AOPA to save the airport. An amendment to the state budget bill requires the school to keep the airport open until a replacement facility can be found. The bill is awaiting the governor's signature.
This marks the second time AOPA and the aviation community have gone to the legislature for assistance, including a personal visit by AOPA President Phil Boyer.
AOPA and airport supporters were able to get language included in the bill that guarantees general aviation access to Horace Williams pending the opening of the new facility.
Further, the legislation says the state will provide assistance to the school in locating the replacement airport, which may require construction of a new airport.
House co-speakers James Black (D-Mecklenburg) and Richard Morgan (R-Moore) were the legislative leaders behind protecting the airport. However, many people were involved in making the legislation a reality, including local and regional pilots and AOPA Airport Support Network volunteers who contacted lawmakers.
"This legislation will help the state, university, and the aviation community work together to provide an aviation gateway to Orange County. That gateway might have disappeared entirely without the legislature's work on the issue," said AOPA Regional Representative Chris Hudson.
The airport was part of a large gift of land to the university by professor Horace Williams in the 1930s, and while the professor did not restrict the use of the property to airport use, it has been an airport for about 70 years. Presidents Ford and George H. Bush received Navy primary flight training at the airport.
Horace Williams is home to North Carolina's AHEC program, which flies University of North Carolina doctors and medical specialists to serve outlying communities throughout the state.
AOPA has been actively fighting to keep the airport open since the university's surprise announcement two years ago that it planned to close the airport.
Photo of Horace Williams Airport by Jack Imperiale.
July 21, 2004