County's Airport Has Big Impact
As the Moore County Airport embarks on an important new project, voices of concern have begun to be heard.
With this article, the Airport Authority hopes to allay some of these concerns by presenting an accurate picture of operations at the airport and the plans for extending the runway.
To begin, it is important to emphasize that from the standpoint of day-to-day operations, the airport is a self-sustaining enterprise. This means that — unlike other county agencies — the airport does not depend on Moore County taxpayers to finance operations.
The airport hires its own workers, pays their salaries, and provides health care and other benefits. Hired employees maintain all facilities and grounds with airport-owned equipment. The airport owns one aircraft and hires flight instructors to provide flight training for interested customers. The annual operating budget is about $3.8 million, which is funded out of airport revenue.
The principal source of revenue is the sale of fuel. Hangar and office rentals, including a rental car agency, also provide revenue. With one owned and one leased aircraft, the flight training program is growing and a good source of income.
During the current economic recession, airport management has worked extremely hard to remain profitable as it was faced with declining revenue. Through good management, the airport has continued to maintain a positive bottom line.
There are some who believe that the airport is of little value to the community, that it is a sinkhole for taxpayer dollars and is simply a facility for airplane fanciers. Nothing could be further from the truth. In 2006, a state study of economic impact of the airport found that the total economic contributions to the Moore County economy were $5.7 million direct and $68.9 million indirect annually.
Of immediate concern to some is the plan to extend the runway. At 5,500 feet, the current runway is too short for some aircraft operations. Without consideration of the question of commercial air service, even in day-to-day operations, aircraft often depart without full fuel loads because of runway length. This means lower fuel sales and less revenue from the airport’s principal source.
It may be recalled that insufficient runway length was one of the reasons Delta Airlines terminated service several years ago. On hot days, Delta found it necessary to depart with empty seats in order to meet weight limits for takeoff.
Under the existing economic circumstances, it would be easy to conclude, as some in the community have done, that we will never regain commercial air service in Moore County. The airport authority does not take this position and so continues to look at possible airline options.
We believe that at some point the local market will support commercial service. An extended runway will be an important point when we have future talks with airline groups about re-establishing this service.
Airport planners have designed the runway extension so as to keep future traffic patterns exactly the same as exist currently.
This is possible because of the use of displaced thresholds. This means that approach patterns and touchdown points will not be changed for either end of the runway.
The extra runway simply will be available for heavier weight takeoffs as required. This also means that departure aircraft, by using the extra length for takeoff, will reach higher altitudes as they approach developed areas off the ends of the runway.
The airport is an important part of Moore County’s infrastructure. Like other infrastructure, it is necessary to maintain and improve the airport. The recent addition of new hangers has provided much needed aircraft storage capacity and additional operating revenue.
Further, as more and more people use the new roundabout, it is clear that the relocation of the intersection of N.C. 22 and Airport Road was a very positive development. While meeting FAA safety criteria, the new intersection has improved safety and convenience for everyone.
The Moore County Airport Authority is confident that the runway extension will prove to be just as important to the community.
Don Delauter is a member of the Moore County Airport Authority and submitted this column on its behalf.
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