Monday, December 26, 2016

Gordon Rowell: Commercial air service to Elizabeth City Regional Airport not likely

Could commercial air service come to the Elizabeth City Regional Airport? Airport Manager Gordon Rowell is looking into it – but says it's not likely.

Rowell briefly discussed commercial air service with Pasquotank County commissioners on Monday. Rowell, who last worked for the Pitt-Greenville Airport, said he's making calls to see if there's any interest in commercial air service at the airport. Currently the airport is used by the US Coast Guard, Elizabeth City State University, and private pilots, rather than offering plane tickets to the public.

If commercial air service came to Elizabeth City, it would open up major federal funding for the airport, he said. He also said Elizabeth City might appeal to small airlines with passengers planning to go to the Outer Banks. Such airlines contacted him years ago when he worked at the Pitt-Greenville Airport, he said. Pitt-Greenville offers some commercial service through American Airlines, he said.

Despite those potential selling points, Rowell stressed commercial air service is unlikely in Elizabeth City because of its relatively small population.

“It's going to be a hard rabbit to pull out of that hat considering the size of the community out here, but I spent a lot of the day calling around trying to find a way to make that happen,” Rowell told commissioners.

Rowell also said that, if commercial air service did come to the airport, it could handle planes sized to carry up to about 50 passengers each. That means it’d likely provide connecting flights to larger airports.

It's not unprecedented for Elizabeth City to have commercial service, Airport Board Chair Don Parks said in a phone call Wednesday. Piedmont Airlines provided some service around 1970, he recalled.

However, he similarly said Elizabeth City's small population – as well as its close proximity to the Norfolk International Airport – made commercial service very unlikely.

Parks said Elizabeth City's population probably needed to grow several times over, and get many more high-paying jobs, before commercial air service would be feasible.


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