DOBSON — Recently, the Mount Airy-Surry County Airport Authority saw a favorable end to ongoing and costly litigation, but some are still concerned about the operations at the airport.
At a Surry County Board of Commissioners meeting on Sept. 6, Robin Angel told commissioners she’s fed up with management at the airport, which is handled by contracted fixed base operator Ra-Tech Aviation; she also claims one Airport Authority member slandered her and her family.
The frayed cable
Angel’s first complaint about the operations at the airport regarded a frayed cable used to open and close the door of a hangar where her husband’s plane is stored.
Angel showed commissioners a picture of a cable, which appears to be damaged.
“In May of this year I noticed that our hangar door (cable) at the airport had a large fray in it, which concerned my husband and I greatly because of the hazard it posed,” said Angel.
She went on to detail correspondence between she and her husband, Dennis Angel, and airport officials.
In one email to Airport Authority Chairman John Springthorpe, Dennis Angel notes there are only two cables which hold up the door and “any frays or twists tremendously jeopardize the integrity of the structure.”
In a subsequent email, Angel states he consulted with staff from a well-known hangar door company who stated the cable should be replaced at once. He also offered to pay for any replacement costs and be compensated by the Authority at a later date.
“The cables on the bi-fold door in Hangar 5 were inspected by John Spane and again by Dale Puckett … when you reported the issue in May. I also inspected the cables this week after receiving your email,” wrote Springthorpe on Aug. 12.
Spane is the airport manager and Puckett handles maintenance on the hangar doors.
“There is something odd about the place shown in the photograph. It may be a single strand in the cable that has come loose and twisted into the shape shown in the photograph or it could be a piece of wire that is not part of the cable that has become twisted around that spot. There has been no change in the nearly 3 months since you first reported it. For now, the Authority plans to monitor the condition of the cable before taking any further action,” added Springthorpe.
In an interview, Springthorpe said the case remains the same as far as the cable is concerned.
“Three people have looked at it, and three people don’t believe it’s a hazard,” noted Springthorpe. It is only Angel who views the cable as an issue, and officials at the airport continue to monitor the cable.
Springthorpe, via email, stated the airport had not received any official estimates for replacing a hangar door cable. However, he estimated the cost for replacement to be about $1,000.
At the county board meeting, Robin Angel told commissioners her problems with the Airport Authority and its contracted fixed base operator don’t end at the cable. She claims the couple’s plane, a Beechcraft A36 Bonanza, was damaged by Ra-Tech staff.
“While on vacation we received a phone call from Ric Newsom, who is a one-third owner of the same aircraft, informing us that the wingtip on the Bonanza had been hit while planes were being moved out of the hangar,” said Angel.
Angel went on to say airport workers were responsible for the damage. However, another pilot, Jerry Chandler, paid for the damage. Her concerns were twofold — Why had Ra-Tech not paid for the damage to the plane, and why hadn’t the Angels been notified of the damage?
“Jerry Chandler paid for the repairs because Jerry Chandler was the one who damaged the plane,” said Springthorpe.
The matter was investigated, said Springthorpe, and it turned out Ra-Tech had no hand in the damaged wingtip.
“I also investigated your allegation that a Ra-Tech employee damaged your aircraft and failed to report it,” wrote Springthorpe in another email to Dennis Angel. “Whoever your ‘friend’ is that told you this occurred gave you bad information. Jerry Chandler was moving his aircraft and caused the damage.”
Springthorpe said it was also unrealistic to expect airport staff to report every concern or incident to every stakeholder in planes owned by multiple people. Ra-Tech had fulfilled its responsibility when it notified Newsom.
Newsom was also featured in a video which Springthorpe sent to Dennis Angel. After explaining Chandler intends to pay for the damage to the aircraft, Newsom proclaims, “It’s all good.”
It’s not all good for Robin Angel, however. She still wants the hangar cable replaced and thinks Ra-Tech should own up to the damage she believes the company caused.
What’s more, she claims her family has been slandered by a member of the Airport Authority.
In an interview following her presentation to county commissioners, Angel said a Facebook post made by Airport Authority member Dr. Thomas Jackson, a city appointee to the Authority, was “unbecoming of a member of a public board.” Worse yet, the board member made the post on the page of her son, who is a minor.
Jackson’s post on the Facebook page of Wyatt Angel, 17, does wish the teenager well in his first year of college, and Jackson states, “I hope your flying career blossoms.”
However, Robin Angel takes issue with statements the dentist makes prior to his encouraging words to her son.
On Wyatt’s Facebook page, Jackson responds to an email in which Dennis Angel references the “poor management that insulted Mr. (Billy) Hicks,” who recently saw his complaints dismissed in lawsuits he filed against the Airport Authority.
“Well Hicks needed to be insulted and tell your dad I don’t always sick (stick) up for John but again your dad is totally off base,” wrote Jackson. “Seems to me he has lost it again.”
“I feel that this was not an ethical action for someone with such a position on the Airport Authority,” Robin Angel told commissioners. “It is uncalled for, and I do not appreciate being publicly slandered by an airport official.”
Jackson did not respond to an email sent to the address on Springthorpe’s Airport Authority distribution list or a voice mail message left at his office.
“In order to stop this incompetence, term limits are needed,” Robin Angel told county commissioners. “Without them, the regime will only grow and continue to drain from the taxpayers.”
A petition proposing to change the wording of the terms of office for Airport Authority members is circulating. Currently, board members serve four-year terms and may be reappointed to their positions an infinite number of times. Appointments are made by the county board and the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners.
“The term of office of the members of the Airport Authority shall be two years. No member may serve more than two consecutive terms. No former Authority member may serve additional terms until at least seven years have elapsed following conclusion of his (or her) previous term of office,” reads the proposed new language.
The petition urges the county and city board to make the changes within 120 days of receiving the petition and also advocates for current members to be removed, beginning with those with the most tenure.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.