The Mount Airy-Surry County Airport will receive $211,500 from the state as reimbursement for money previously spent on expansion.
The local airport is one of nine publicly owned airports in the state to be awarded $3.7 million in funds by the N.C. Transportation Board. Other funding grants will be used to provide improvements such as better runway lighting, new fuel tanks and safer taxiways.
Locally, the awarded funds are for land purchased to extend the runway. That project was completed in October, according to Eddie Harris, chairman of the airport authority board.
“That’s primarily reimbursement for the property at 282 Holly Ave. It was a split-level house east of the runway, and the county bought it for $110,000 back in December of 2016,” said Harris. “It was one of the properties included on our master plan. The rest of it, roughly $100,000, was for associated costs on some others. That was Phase 2 of the project, and some of it goes back five or six years.”
“The Airport Layout Plan from 10 years ago recommended the acquisition of a row of 10 or 15 houses that back up to the airport,” said County Manager Chris Knopf. “Some of those acquisitions were made by what I call ‘the former authority board’.”
Knopf added that money spent by local governments on land for airport expansion may be reimbursed up to several years afterward, which is what was happening now.
The Division of Aviation will be doing an update soon, said Knopf. A lot of the old plan has already happened.
“We’ve got a lot of space for future hangar development. There are 12 or 15 names on a waiting list for hangar space. A new plan will provide for orderly growth in the next decade or so.
“Airports and aviation-related industries contribute $31 billion to North Carolina’s economy each year, according to a 2016 report. There are 123,400 airport-related jobs in the state,” read a release from the board of transportation announcing the grants.
“It’s too early to tell,” said Knopf, when asked if the airport’s runway extension had resulted in increased revenue from additional use of the airport or if larger planes were now using it.
“We’ll know more when the new lighting system is complete,” said Knopf. “There’s at least one larger turbo-prop plane located there since the runway was extended. But I don’t know if that is the reason why.”
That plane is a Beechcraft Kingair 250, according to Rocky Collins, service line technician for Ra-Tech Aviation. It’s a turbo-prop airplane, which means it’s not a jet, but it uses jet fuel. “It has room for two pilots and eight people.”
Collins said the plane could have landed at the airport before the runway extension, but insurance companies want 5,000 feet of runway for that kind of plane. The runway was 4,300 feet before. It’s 5,500 now.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.