04/30/10 — Mount Olive christens long-awaited runway extension at Yeager Field

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Mount Olive christens long-awaited runway extension at Yeager Field

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on April 30, 2010 1:46 PM

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Mount Olive Mayor Ray McDonald, right, speaks at the dedication of the new 5,000-foot runway at the Mount Olive Municipal Airport Thursday as NCDOT Division of Aviation representative Rick Barkes looks on.

Scissors flashed and the yellow ribbon parted Thursday at a special dedication ceremony for the new Mount Olive airport runway extension.

The town held the original dedication for Yeager Field 40 years ago this month. When it was first created, the field was only a small dirt strip, but has since developed into a good general aviation airport thanks to the planning and hard work of people in local and state positions, Mayor Ray McDonald said.

"They felt like they could do it, and they did it," he said.

McDonald joined Town Manager Charles Brown, airport committee chairman B.R. "Ruff" Huggins and N.C. DOT Division of Aviation director Rick Barkes in marking the occasion.

It was more than 20 years ago that the town developed a master plan that included updates for the airport, and more than a dozen years since the town began to strive toward implementing the changes. Huggins said he was happy to finally see the big day arrive.

"It's fantastic. Not only that, but the weather's nice. You've got a good day for a big affair, something that we've been working on for years, and we're looking forward to bigger things than this," he said.

The town has even more plans for future airport improvements, such as installing a self-service fueling station supplying jet aircraft with the specialized type of fuel the larger, more powerful jets need. The newly extended runway, which has been in service for several months, can accommodate larger aircraft than before thanks to the full 5,000-foot length of asphalt. The airport already has a self-service fueling station for general aviation fuel, which has proven to be popular among pilots, Huggins said.

McDonald thanked a number of people, including the Wayne County commissioners, Rep. Efton Saeger and Rep. Louis Pate, for their roles in making the airport improvements possible. Commissioners J.D. Evans and Steve Keen were among those present at the ceremony. The mayor recognized other special guests including the red-coated members of the Tuskegee Airmen.

The airport might be a vital part of the town's development in years to come, and it is a testament to the hard work of everyone in the town that the airport has been updated to this point, the mayor said.

"So far, we have had our act together and that's the reason we are here today celebrating the dedication of this 5,000-foot runway," McDonald said.

The town had the vision, and together with the DOT has worked diligently to make that vision a reality, Barkes said.

The airport could also prove beneficial to the town's future economic and business development. The state is experiencing a lot of interest from companies regarding the aeronautics industry, and aviation and general aviation airports are more important than ever, Barkes said.

The 5,000-foot runway mark is the minimum that many companies are looking for when scouting for locations. Having the longer runway is "one of the tools in the toolbox for attracting industry," Barkes said.

"You guys are setting yourself up real well to be an industry attractor," he said.