Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Williamsburg Regional (KCKI), Kingstree, South Carolina: County airport leaders seek direction

Williamsburg County Airport’s Interim-Director Jack Whiteside speaks before Williamsburg County Council Tuesday, Aug. 21 in Kingstree. Whiteside said the county’s airport needs an infusion of funding in order to meet FAA regulations.


 After years of being supported by volunteers and part-time employees, those in charge of Williamsburg County’s airport are asking for some direction.

At an Aug. 21 county council meeting in Kingstree, members of the force that maintains the Williamsburg County Regional Airport pleaded their case to council, asking for an idea of what the county plans to do with the airport.

The airport, which opened in 1970, is home to a dozen aircraft, according to The airport sees an average of 115 aircraft operations a week with 99 percent of that general aviation -- 84 percent local and 15 percent transient. rates the airport's asphalt runway as being in good shape.

The plan laid out by the volunteers, led by Jack Whiteside, the interim-director of the airport, provided the council with two options – to either provide sufficient funding for the airport to allow it to meet Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines, or allow it to continue to flounder and lose the certifications and existing state and federal funding it currently receives.

While the plan for the later is already laid out – simply continue to not meet guidelines and the funding the airport currently receives will cease.

The plan for curating the airport would be a little more complex. Significant funding would need to be allocated to meet some of the FAA guidelines the airport is currently out of regulation with, but the most pressing issue would be to provide the airport with a form of governance to lead a facility that been directionless for the past decade.

Whiteside said the guidelines the airport is out of regulation with will not be too pressing for the next year, but after that, he expects the federal and state authorities that govern the airport and supply it with a small parcel of funding will be forced to act.

“We’ve been told in no uncertain terms by the Federal Aviation [Administration] and the state aeronautics commission that there won’t be any more money if we don’t do something,” Whiteside said. “There are things that we need to do that we haven’t been doing. We need governance and some form of revenue.”

Currently, the most pressing issue facing the airport is its need for perpetual maintenance.

The mile long runway and the accompanying taxiways leave a large swatch of land with grass to be cut on a continual basis.

Since the airport’s inception, it’s dealt with rudimentary tools to address the grass, with a tractor that is now dated at more than 30-years-old and a mower that was purchased by one of the volunteers.

Whiteside, who has been the interim-director since 2002, said the state initially provided much of the funding used to maintain the airport, but recently, all but the most basic of funding has been cut.

“Our present situation is that we have no revenue on the airport and very few fund available,” he said. “The state is not doing anything now at all. They do not fund growth retardant… I’m not saying they don’t help, but they don’t help with the costs of maintenance.”

The airport’s troubles don’t end with the grass, though. Illegal motorcycle races and hunters trespassing onto the property have also plagued the facility.

Whiteside recounted one instance in which a landing aircraft was forced to abort its approach due to a deer standing on the runway.

Although no action was taken in support or against increasing the county’s support of the airport, Williamsburg County Supervisor Stanley Pasley said the airport – if maintained properly – could become an integral asset to the county.

“The one thing I want to emphasize… is that this is an asset,” Pasley said. “It’s come time that we deal with it in that matter. These are some of the things that are going to be talked about… Moving forward, I think it’s compelling that we not squander an opportunity to maximize the potential of this asset that the county has."

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