Chamber Chat - Raleigh Executive Jetport

Nov 12

By Meg Moss


Recently, the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors requested that Bob Heuts, Executive Director of the Raleigh Exec Jetport, come to a board meeting to provide an update on things happening at the Jetport. After the meeting, I asked Heuts if he could write up a review of his presentation that could be shared with you, the readers of The Sanford Herald. Here is what he shared:

“I always appreciate the opportunity to discuss the airport as I believe the airport to be a very important economic driver for the success and quality of life of the region.

In my discussion with the Chamber Board, I let them know there are over 5,000 public airports in the country and over 14,000 private airstrips. Our airport is a general aviation airport and does not have scheduled service like Raleigh-Durham international. There are 500 airports with scheduled or commercial service in the US. Raleigh Exec is one of 74 public airports in North Carolina, of which 11 are classified as commercial with scheduled service. It is part of the national transportation system, as are roads, railroads and rivers.

Raleigh Exec is one of the busiest General Aviation airports in North Carolina with nearly 150 airplanes based at the airport and an average of 72,000 operations per year. As an economic engine for the community, Raleigh Exec generates about $32 million of impact in the region according to a study performed in 2014 by NC State University of all the airports in North Carolina. Approximately 50 people work at the airport on a daily basis at nine different businesses. The skill sets of the people working at the airport range from commercial and private pilots, certified airplane mechanics, certified avionics technicians, to administrative personnel. The NC Forest Service maintains its fleet of airplanes and helicopters at their Raleigh Exec location. Elite Aircraft Services sells, services and trains pilots on the Cirrus aircraft. Sanford Aircraft Services provides maintenance service to primarily piston engines and AeroServices is an avionics shop.

The airport is owned and operated by an Authority which includes two appointments from the City of Sanford and two appointments from Lee County, the County and City Managers, and a Sanford Area Growth Alliance Representative. The Authority is responsible for setting direction and tone for the services the airport provides to the flying public. The Authority has always been in a growth mode and very interested in making sure this airport is the preferred airport for the region. Every construction project since opening in 2000 has been completed to create more capacity for storing and accommodating more aircraft of all sizes.

Recent projects include 30 new T-hangars which were funded by a loan from our partners, the City of Sanford and Lee County. Parking spots for an additional 27 airplanes was completed in December 2016. The NC Division of Aviation, part of the NC Department of Transportation, funded the apron project as well as the new north terminal area which will allow for much larger hangars to house larger airplanes. We are currently working on the taxiway and connectors to the runway in order to accommodate planes as large as 737s. The airport is also the beneficiary of a State grant to build a new terminal facility and hangar. The planning has started for the new building and is expected to be completed by this time next year.

All of these projects are exciting and will certainly put this airport in a better position to improve on the impact this airport can provide for the region. The Authority, as a forward thinking body, has been very appreciative of all the partnerships it has in growing this airport and fully understands its responsibility to continue working to maintain the airport. With this in mind, the Authority has engaged a consultant to assist in updating and developing a new Master Plan for the airport. This plan will recognize all that has taken place at the airport and growth in the region in the last 20 years. It will also try to prepare for the next 20 years by recognizing the improvements at the Central Carolina Business Park here in Lee County, the Chatham Park development, the nearby Megasite and general growth in the region.  All of these developments could impact activity at the airport and the Authority wants to be prepared. The Master Plan for the next 20 years is the most important of all the projects for the airport. The Authority along with the Committee that has been appointed to assist the consultant will take the next 12 months to develop the plan. There will be opportunities for public input in this process and we would encourage everyone to provide feedback on the information that is gathered.

Aviation is only going to grow in the future as more business is done regionally/nationally and as saving time, increasing productivity, security and exercising control over efficient and reliable scheduling becomes more important to the business community. The Authority will do everything in its power to make sure we are ready for every opportunity that presents itself.”

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