03/21/05 — Airport 'doing nothing but growing'

View Archive

Airport 'doing nothing but growing'

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on March 21, 2005 1:50 PM

To get to the Goldsboro-Wayne Municipal Airport, just get follow the signs from Goldsboro on U.S. 117 north of Goldsboro. The country roads take you out past the signs for a barbecue restaurant and down a road flanked by trees and fields.

Amidst this quiet rural setting, is a small airport buzzing with activity.

A building to the right of the airport terminal offers classroom space for Wayne Community College's aviation mechanics program. To the left is Woods Aviation, which repairs airplanes.

The Wayne County Volunteer Fire Department leases land near the airport for training purposes.

"What we can spare, we spare," Otto Keesling says of the airport property.

Keesling is now an ex-officio member of the Airport Authority, but was chairman of the authority for several years. He has served on the board for almost 20 years, and still spends much of his time at the airport.

The airport is getting ready to build new hangars for additional airplanes. "There's already a waiting list of 12 for enclosed hangars," he said.

The airport currently offers two enclosed T-Hangars with 20 slots and a four-slot "nested hangar." There are two other privately owned hangars, one of which houses a helicopter.

Soon the airport will build 12 more enclosed T-hangars, at a cost of about $240,000.

These hangars provide ample room for most general aviation aircraft as well as additional space for storage.

"We'll start as soon as it dries up some," Keesling said. "We didn't want to start in wintertime. It will take about 60 days to complete once it's started."

Though the county provides some funding for the airport, a large portion of the airport's income comes from federal and state grants.

And the number of airplanes housed at an airport is significant when grant money is requested, says Keesling.

The airport has one commercial hangar. Keesling says they'd like to build another.

"It would generate $130,000 in taxes," he said. "We'd like to get one or two commitments before building another commercial hangar, but I believe that if we build it, they will come."

He says that plans are under way to expand the runway from 5,500 feet to 6,500 feet within the next two years.

"We've started the paperwork and we're planning to go up and see the people in Washington to explain why we need it," Keesling said.

There have been several businesses, he said, interested coming to Wayne County that need an airport with a longer runway to handle the bigger jets.

Keesling said that the airport owns close to 200 acres, and hasn't bought any land since the initial purchase more than 30 years ago.

The airport has some land it doesn't use, and it leases it to a farmer. In return, he mows around airport, Keesling said. "A big expense for an airport can be groundskeeping."

He said that the airport authority keeps an eye on what crops are farmed on airport land.

"You have to control the crop so that you don't draw birds," he said.

Though the airport management system is run a little differently from most other small airports, Keesling says it works well for Wayne County.

"Jim Steele, of Sig Aviation, is the airport manager and Tom Kimbrough is the fixed-base operator," he said. "They fly and run airfield operations."

Gary Whaley is in charge of the flight school, and Woods Aviation does aircraft maintenance.

Keesling said that a lot of the smaller airports had one person managing all areas, but that person often had an expertise, or interest, in only one area.

"So when Sig Aviation asked if we'd be interested in this setup, we decided to try it," Keesling said. "We didn't know if it would be a good idea or not."

The new system has been in place for about three years now, and is working well.

"We're doing nothing but growing," Keesling said.