08/16/06 — Officials take tour of local airport

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Officials take tour of local airport

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on August 16, 2006 1:52 PM

Goldsboro-Wayne Airport Authority members had a chance Tuesday to show off the facility to members of the North Carolina Aeronautics Council, and to show state officials how investing in the facility could boost economic development in the region.

The council, part of the state Department of Transportation, held one of its regular meetings at the Goldsboro-Wayne Airport. The council normally holds its meetings at various airports around the state.

Authority members used the opportunity to talk about the growth of the airport, plans for continued expansion and concerns Wayne officials have about the future.

"We are very proud of our airport. It has become an economic development tool and it's been growing out of control," authority member Cleve Wilkins said, noting the rapid expansion of the facility in recent years. Wilkins said the airport was little more than "a strip of pavement and a mobile home" when he first saw it 30 years ago.

Construction of a new corporate jet hangar is expected to begin soon and authority members said they believe it will be ready by January. The hangar would be able to house two to three mid-sized jets. The Goldsboro-Wayne Airport currently can accommodate 48 aircraft, including two jets, five multi-engine planes and one helicopter, authority member Ken Banks said.

The authority hopes to be able to extend the airport's runway from 5,500 feet to 6,500 feet so that it can handle larger jets.

Members of the state council said the Department of Transportation has indicated that it plans to do more to help airport development across the state. The Goldsboro-Wayne Airport is primarily supported by the county government, but state money can become available for airport projects if special needs are demonstrated.

Council Chairman Dudley Humphrey said that he has been encouraged by the growing number of state officials who see aviation as a key component of economic development. State funding has already helped bring passenger air service back to some areas where it had been eliminated, he noted, and has helped improve air services in other regions.

North Carolina's aviation industry generated about $9.5 billion in revenue last year. Banks said he believes that the Goldsboro-Wayne Airport -- the 26th largest in the state -- can contribute more to the economy of eastern North Carolina if it is able to continue its development.

Authority members also expressed some concerns about the future. New laws required tighter security at airports are difficult for smaller facilities to follow. Although the Goldsboro-Wayne Airport has sufficient security measures in place to meet existing requirements, Banks said he expects more security mandates to be issued.