Wilmington’s airport director: We want direct flights to Chicago, Dallas-Forth Worth

Triangle Business Journal

Talk to Wilmington International Airport Director Julie Wilsey and one gets a sense her “to-do” list never gets short — it only grows.

Less than 18 months into her job, Wilsey is busy talking to airport directors of larger cities and finding a niche for ILM and the 800,000 (outbound and inbound) flyers it serves every year. “Not only are we a transportation facility, we also our developing our business park to generate new revenue.”

With an $8.4 million budget, Wilsey is acutely aware that for the airport to grow, she will need more revenue. And the top priority for Wilsey and her team right now — to get new air service and to expand the tenant base of ILM’s (Wilmington’s federally assigned airport code) business park.

“We are working with our carriers to get Chicago and Dallas-Fort Worth nonstop service from ILM,” Wilsey says. “We are building a business plan for the carriers.”  While Wilsey admits that adding nonstop air service from Wilmington will always be a challenge given its size, load factor and profitability of the 20-plus daily direct flights from ILM are robust. ILM currently offers nonstop service to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Philadelphia International Airport, New York LaGuardia Airport, Washington National Airport and Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. Delta serves the Atlanta route. American serves the others.
For Wilsey, though, Wilmington airport’s business model becomes more attractive when airport officials are able to generate new sources of revenue.

Hence, more attention to the business park. Just last week, Wilsey hired Carol LeTellier as a business development director of the airport whose mission is to attract new tenants to the 140-acre business park. “We are looking for tenants who want office and retail space,” to fill up the new 10,000 square feet building on the site.
With the VA Health Care Center, 84 Lumber and a laser entertainment center as the main attractions of the business park, ILM is bringing in about $500,000 in revenue from the park — about 6 percent of the total airport budget.

Like most airports, ILM’s parking fees total 39 percent of the budget followed by airlines and rental car fees that account for another 25 percent of the budget.

Wilsey has a formidable challenge on her hands.

When asked who she considers her biggest competition, she is quick to say — Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

A study done a few years back concluded Wilmington loses some 23 percent of its target market to RDU. That means about 277,000 local passengers drive to or drive from RDU to get to their final destination. ‘The good news is we are still able to retain 64 percent of our passengers,” Wilsey says.

ILM is the fifth largest airport in North Carolina, and is among the most expensive when it comes to average roundtrip fare. A study on North Carolina airports show Asheville airport with an average roundtrip fare of $208, followed by RDU at $219. Wilmington’s average fare was about $237 for a roundtrip.

With some large companies such as PPD, nCino, UNC-Wilmington, Alcami Corp. and Live Oak Bancshares in its backyard, Wilsey is crafting a business plan for the airport that caters more to business travel. Because she knows if carriers were to double down on ILM, yields on the 1,300 seats each day have to be there.

“The business community can help us forward that discussion,” she says. “We are pushing forward.”

PGV (Greenville, NC) to be under wings of new executive director


The head of Indiana’s second-largest airport will be taking flight to North Carolina to become executive director of the Pitt-Greenville Airport.

The Pitt-Greenville Airport Authority on Monday announced that Betty Stansbury, airport director at Purdue University Airport, was hired to replace Jerry Vickers, who is retiring July 1. Stansbury will join the airport staff on June 1 and work with Vickers, PGV executive director since 2009, during her first month on the job.

“We usually have 30 days to act as a transition period,” Vickers said Monday. ”That’s what they did when I first started. Then I’m probably heading back to Jacksonville to retire and hopefully play a lot of golf.”

Stansbury earned a bachelor’s degree in aviation management from the Florida Institute of Technology and holds accreditation as an airport executive by the American Association of Airport Executives. She has more than 30 years of experience managing airports, from small general aviation airports to a large international hub airport.

Stansbury has been director at Purdue University Airport since 2000. The airport is only one of 13 university-owned airports in the United States and is the second-busiest airport in Indiana.

“I am honored to have been selected as the next executive director for the airport,” Stansbury said. ”I’m pretty excited. It’s a beautiful facility.”

John Banks, chairman of the Pitt-Greenville Airport Authority, said Stansbury was one of 25 applicants who applied for the position.

“Betty was unanimously chosen as the top candidate and will bring a broad range of airport management skills and experience to PGV,” Banks said.

Stansbury said Greenville’s location was something that drew her to the position.

“The location is a large part of the appeal,” she said in a telephone interview Monday afternoon. ”I was looking at coastal areas in North Carolina and South Carolina for somewhere to eventually retire.

“When I saw Greenville, I thought, ’What a wonderful place to finish my career.’”

Stansbury said she also liked that Greenville is a college town like West Lafayette, home of Purdue University.

“There are a lot of the same synergies and dynamics in Greenville that there are here,” she said.

Stansbury said she will bring both short-range and long-range goals to her new position.

“I will be working with the board to develop one-year, five-year and 10-year goals,” she said. “I also will be meeting with the community and seeing what their expectations are for the airport.

“I look forward to working with the board, staff and community to guide the airport through the opportunities and challenges ahead and to grow its contribution to the economic vitality of the region,” Stansbury said.

North Carolina Native Flying High as Director of Aviation Museum


Wally Coppinger never planned to run a museum, or meet Clint Eastwood and Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger for that matter.

In fact, the Bluefield native said he never in his “wildest dreams” thought he would be doing what he is doing now.

But a lifelong interest in aviation has led him from what was once a volunteer position to the full-time job of executive director of the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte, N.C.

“I grew up around airplanes in Bluefield,” he said. “My dad, Bud Coppinger, was in the Civil Air Patrol. We grew up around airplanes because of my dad’s love of aviation.”

His father and Terry Childress were the only two in the Civil Air Patrol who had a pilot’s license.

“He and Terry would fly the T34,” he said. “They would fly that plane all of the time.”

During that time, he also got to know local iconic pilot and photographer Mel Grubb.

“I grew up knowing Mr. Grubb,” he said. “About two years ago when I went to Bluefield over Christmas we went out to the Mercer County Airport together.”

Although he caught the flight bug and wanted to be a pilot himself, his poor vision got in the way.

“I had bad eyes,” he said.

But he said he spent countless hours flying with others and, as a boy, enjoyed visiting Mercer County Airport.

“They (the airport) used to have a little restaurant in there and we would go up Sunday after church and eat and watch the Piedmont planes landing and taking off,” he said. “We really enjoyed doing that as kids, standing behind the fence, seeing the planes, smelling the aviation fuel. Those are fond memories.”

After he graduated from Bluefield High School in 1976, he attended the University of Kentucky, majoring in allied health sciences with a minor in business.

Staying in Kentucky and starting a dental laboratory business, Coppinger finally left and moved to Raleigh, N.C. in 2002, again starting a business, selling it in 2005 and moving to Charlotte to start yet another business.

“When I sold my business here, I volunteered at the museum for a little while,” he said. “After eight months of volunteering and being the volunteer coordinator, they decided to make a change in direction.”

That change was creating a paid position of director of the museum, a job they offered to Coppinger.

“I thought it would be a temporary position, not something I would do long term,” he said. “That was four and a half years ago.”

For Coppinger, it turned out to be a natural fit.

Endangered bird threatens model airplane club at Jordan Lake

BY JOSEPH NEFF – News & Observer

There is a battle in the skies on the western shore of Jordan Lake between scores of small planes and a pair of tiny birds, and the birds are winning.

The birds are Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, an endangered species spotted in October after being absent from the area for decades.

The planes belong to the 125 members of the Flying Tigers of Jordan Lake, a club that has been flying model airplanes at a small grass airstrip off Big Woods Road for 25 years.

Last month the N.C. Forestry Service, which manages the land, told the Flying Tigers that they would have to vacate the airstrip this year.

On Sunday, the Tigers held a “fly-in” to rally its members and others with the hopes of keeping their airstrip open.

State Sen. Valerie Foushee, a lifelong resident of the area making her first visit to the club, delivered her verdict: “I’m amazed.”

Foushee and more than a 100 club members watched a parade of planes soar into the sky: replicas of WWII-era P-51 Mustangs, P-47 Thunderbolts and T-28 Trojans. Two model Sopwith Camels, of WWI and Red Baron fame, twisted and spun in a mock dog fight.

“We promote STEM,” said Foushee, referring to what educators call Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. “I’m standing here looking at a sky full of science and engineering and math.”

The club began using the field in 1991 under a handshake agreement with Forestry Service managers. The club maintains the field, mows the lawn and cleans up after every event.

Club president Alberto Scotti said he spoke with the Forestry Service a year ago to see if the club could put their agreement in writing. A year passed with occasional contacts. In March, Scotti met with Piedmont region forester Kevin Harvell, who handed him a letter saying the club had to leave the airstrip in six months.

“I was speechless,” said Scotti, a professor of marine sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “It totally came out of the blue.”

Scotti said club members have received different answers about their eviction. People had complained about the activity. The Forestry Service is planting a forest on the property. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which leases the land to the N.C. Forest Service, has rules forbidding aircraft on its land. The Army Corps wouldn’t approve a sublease.

“It’s a legal issue,” said Brian Haines, a Forestry Service spokesman. “We had to say to them, ‘We are sorry.’ They are good folks, but the Corps won’t let them do a lease.”

Public records from the Forestry Service show that the reason is the bird.

Once common, the woodpecker population has plunged 99 percent since the arrival of Europeans, primarily due to the disappearance of long-leaf pine forests. Birdwatchers first spotted the red-cockaded woodpeckers in October. Bands on the birds’ legs showed they were from Fort Bragg, about 50 miles away.

Birdwatchers and foresters were elated by the news.

“What do you think about the RCW’s at Jordan Lake…,” wrote district forester Mark Bost. “Only the biggest news to hit the NC Forest Service in forever??????”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ordered an overall plan to protect and manage the birds.

In November, Harvell drew up a list of how the plan would impact Forestry Service land. Among the impacts: “The agreement with the model airplane club that currently uses the area adjacent to the regional office will have to be discontinued.”

The woodpeckers nest in cavities in the pine tree. The forest service had not found any in the area, so federal biologists installed artificial cavities. A state zoologist classified the sighting as “wandering birds for the time being” until nesting trees were found.

Harvell said the birds have not been seen since December, but he plans for their return.

Foushee, the state senator, said she hopes a solution can be worked out.

“There needs to be a meeting where all the impacted folks sit around the table and work it out,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game.”

Honda Aero Breaks Ground on Expansion of Burlington Facility

Honda Aero, Inc. (HAI) adds to its capability to produce world-class light-jet engines as well as top-flight maintenance and service, as it breaks ground on a new $21 million, 50,000-square foot facility expansion on its Burlington, North Carolina campus. The addition is expected to create 20 to 30 new jobs over the next few years.

HAI expects to complete the facility by early 2017, which will allow it to expand its manufacturing flexibility and production capability for the HF120 light-jet engine as well as any future projects.


“Honda Aero is very excited to expand upon the strong foundation we have established in North Carolina and increase our production capabilities,” said Honda Aero President Atsukuni Waragai. “This facility will give us increased flexibility and capacity to continue providing the very best products and services for our customers.”

HAI currently produces the HF120 engine for GE Honda Aero Engines, LLC, building and servicing the engine that powers the HondaJet at its Burlington facility.  HAI received its Production Certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration on March 17, 2015. Equipped with the HF120 engine, the HondaJet began delivery in December 2015. The HF120 is also available for other airframe applications.

HAI is the official Maintenance Repair and Overhaul facility for the HF120 engine, and features a state-of-the-art test cell, repair and overhaul along with parts warehousing.

“In addition to being an important day for our business, this is another big step for our Honda Aero associates, as we continue to grow and mature our aviation manufacturing capabilities in Burlington,” said Tony Brandewie, vice president of Honda Aero. “As the footprint of our operation expands, so does our partnership with the local community, especially with the Burlington-Alamance Airport Authority which has been instrumental in supporting our business.”

About Honda Aero, Inc.

Honda Aero, Inc. (HAI) conducts parts procurement, assembly and testing of jet engines at its 82,000-square-foot facility, located adjacent to the Burlington-Alamance County regional airport in Burlington, North Carolina.  HAI also provides engine maintenance and overhaul services for its customers at its Burlington facility.

About GE Honda Aero Engines

GE Honda Aero Engines, LLC is a 50/50 joint venture between GE and Honda and is based in Cincinnati, Ohio. The joint company integrates the resources of GE Aviation and Honda Aero, Inc., a Honda subsidiary established to manage its aviation engine business.

About Honda in North America

Honda established operations in America in 1959 and now employs more than 40,000 associates in its North American sales, R&D and manufacturing operations with total capital investment in North America exceeding $22 billion. Based on its longstanding commitment to “build products close to the customer,” Honda operates 18 major manufacturing facilities in North America producing a wide range of Honda and Acura automobiles, automobile engines and transmissions, Honda all-terrain vehicles, power equipment products, such as lawn mowers, mini-tillers and general purpose engines, and the HondaJet advanced light jet. Honda also operates 14 major research and development centers in the U.S. with the capacity to fully design, develop and engineer many of the products Honda produces in North America.


Europe gets its first HondaJet

By Thomas B Haines, AOPA

Photo courtesy of Honda Aircraft
Photo courtesy of Honda Aircraft

Honda Aircraft delivered its first European HondaJet April 20, the next step in the production ramp that will lead to approximately 40 deliveries in the next 12 months, according to President and CEO Michimasa Fujino. Fujino delivered the airplane to Johannes Graf von Schaesberg, chairman and CEO of Rheinland Air Service, one of three Honda Aircraft European dealers. Rheinland, doing business as HondaJet Central Europe, will use the airplane as a demonstrator for approximately a year before selling it to a retail customer.

European certification of the HondaJet should occur by early May, according to Fujino, who also designed the unusual airplane, which features over-the-wing engine mounts. The patented design decreases drag and allows for a larger passenger cabin and more baggage space than a similar-sized airplane with conventional empennage-mounted engines, according to Honda officials. Fujino said the company delivered the equivalent of 2 million pages of documents to the FAA to achieve U.S. certification, which occurred in December.

Approximately 20 percent of the more than 100 orders for the HondaJet are destined for Europe, Fujino said.

Honda Aircraft President and CEO Michimasa Fujino delivers a HondaJet to Johannes Graf von Schaesberg, chairman and CEO of Rheinland Air Service.
Honda Aircraft President and CEO Michimasa Fujino delivers a HondaJet to Johannes Graf von Schaesberg, chairman and CEO of Rheinland Air Service.

When It Comes to Airports, Smaller Is Better

Tim Winship – Smarter Travel

If asked to name my favorite U.S. airport, most days I’d say it was Smith Reynolds, more commonly known as the Winston-Salem airport in North Carolina. What I’m thinking of is not Smith Reynolds as it exists today, but as it was in the latter years of the 20th century, when I had business reasons to visit Winston-Salem on several occasions.

My flights to Smith Reynolds were operated by US Airways Express; they were the only scheduled commercial flights available, until service was terminated in 2000. Those flights were a carry-over from US Airways’ acquisition of Piedmont, which was headquartered in Winston-Salem.

At the time, the terminal was little more than a cinderblock bunker with a single ticket counter against one wall and a few plastic chairs along the opposite wall. There must have been a restroom off to the side, but I don’t recall seeing it. The were no concession stands for snacks or reading material. That row of plastic seats was as close to an airport lounge as you’d find at Smith Reynolds.

Arriving passengers were dumped directly onto the tarmac, where they gathered their bags and walked through the terminal to the street and adjacent parking area, a distance of 50 or so yards.

It was, in short, as bare bones as an airport could be. And it suited me just fine. Better, in fact, than any of the bigger, more amenities-rich airports that make a point of boasting of the number of airlines hosted, or passengers served, or flight arrivals and departures.

That’s just me. But it turns out that I’m not alone in preferring a smaller airport to the bustling mega-hub behemoths that serve so many major metro areas. According to a new study by Phoenix Marketing, airport size and traveler satisfaction are generally inversely related.

The study results reflected ratings of the country’s 250 busiest airports by 170,000 passengers. Among the largest airports, the scores of the five top-rated airports ranged between 76 percent and 82 percent. But the top-five scores of the smaller airports ranged from 88 to 93 percent.

Top 5 Large Airports

  1. Tampa International – 82% (Tampa, FL)
  2. Salt Lake City International – 81% (Salt Lake City, UT)
  3. Charlotte/Douglas International – 79% (Charlotte, NC)
  4. Chicago Midway International – 78% (Chicago, IL)
  5. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International – 76% (Atlanta, GA)

Top 5 Medium Airports

  1. Eppley Airfield – 90% (Omaha, NE)
  2. Theodore Francis Green State – 89% (Warwick, RI)
  3. Palm Beach International – 83% (West Palm Beach, FL)
  4. General Mitchell International – 83% (Milwaukee, WI)
  5. Raleigh-Durham International – 82% (Raleigh-Durham, NC)

Top 5 Small Airports

  1. Bellingham International – 93% (Bellingham, WA)
  2. Gerald R Ford International – 91% (Grand Rapids, MI)
  3. Hilo International – 91% (Hilo, HI)
  4. Wichita Dwight D Eisenhower National Airport – 89% (Wichita, KS)
  5. Spokane International – 88% (Spokane, WA)

The study’s authors explained the discrepancy in terms of airports’ pre- and post-security features. “Many smaller airports outperform their larger counterparts on passenger satisfaction measures related to pre-security items (e.g., parking, checking-in) due to their ease, while many passengers prefer the post-security amenities (e.g., food and beverage, retail, lounges) larger airports offer for the variety.”

That sounds about right. But even if you find that explanation less than convincing, the fact remains: Smaller is better.


Two from NC on Pigeon Forge helicopter crash


The Pigeon Forge Police Department is releasing the name of the victims that died in a helicopter crash in Pigeon Forge on Monday afternoon.

Pigeon Forge Chief of Police Jack H. Baldwin said Johna Morvant, 49, Peyton Rasmussen, 22, Parker Rasmussen, 18, and Michael Mastalez, 21 were passengers on the Smoky Mountain Helicopter Tour that crashed. Morvant lives in Kodak. Her two children, Peyton and Parker Rasmussen were visiting her from Huntersville, North Carolina. Mastalez who was from Propser, Texas was Peyton Rasmussen’s boyfriend.

Jason Dahl, 38, was piloting the helicopter at the time of the crash on Rainbow Road, just before 3:30 p.m. Dahl’s girlfriend, Tessa Ashford, said even though the tragic event has been very emotional, her boyfriend died doing what he loved. She said they are originally from Oregon, but moved to East Tennessee a few years ago to follow Dahl’s love passion: flying.

“Jason loved loved the outdoors and it brought him great joy to share it, he was a great man. His spirit truly lifted up those around him,” said Ashford. She said she feels for the families of the passengers that lost their lives and asks for prayers for the families affected.

Like many others, Ashford is waiting to learn the results from a National Transportation Safety Board investigation to figure out what led to the tragedy. She said her boyfriend was a great pilot who was well respected by his colleagues.

The National Transportation Safety Board will present a preliminary report on the facts of the crash on its website by the end of next week, Schiada said. An investigative report containing the probable cause of the crash could take a year or more, he said, adding the investigation is a “methodical process.”

This is actually the second time a Smoky Mountain Helicopter has crashed in a little more than a year. On February 15, 2015, a helicopter operated by Smoky Mountain Helicopters, was damaged following an uncontained engine failure and fire during takeoff.  The passengers were evacuated and there were no reported injuries.

Since the 1980s there have been at least nine accidents involving helicopters in Sevier County. Some residents have tried to ban helicopter rides from the Pigeon Forge for years, complaining of danger.

Dan Haynes, owner of Scenic Helicopter Tours, a competing helicopter company, said he would like to reassure people that helicopters are safe, because crashes are so rare. He said scenic helicopters are held to strict safety standards.

“If people took care of their cars like we take care of a helicopter, you would never buy a new car because it would always be like a new car. Every moving part of a helicopter has to be inspected or replaced after so many hours. Some of those it doesn’t matter what condition they’re in they have to be replaced,” he said.

They are regulated by standards set by both the helicopter manufacturers and the FAA, and pilots undergo extensive training for any possible situation.

Sonex shows new B models for first time

Alton Marsh – AOPA

Sonex Aircraft is showing the Sonex B and Waiex B kitplanes for the first time at the Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-In and Expo in Lakeland, Florida. The aircraft, powered by an AeroVee Turbo engine, will be unveiled on the first day of the show, April 5.

It features MGL Avionics with 8.5-inch dual-screen display, or buyers can select a Dynon SkyView Quick Panel dual-screen system. UL Power offers an option of UL-350 series engines. It also can use Jabiru or Rotax engines. Engine mounts are available from Sonex for those engines.

The “B” models, announced in February, have more room, more panel space, more fuel, more engine choices, and more standard features compared to previous kits, according to Sonex designer and founder John Monnett. Their appearance at the show will be the first opportunity for those outside the company to see the aircraft, as the company has released only digital drawings to date.

In other news, Sonex officials said they have made the 200-knot SubSonex Personal Jet more affordable, offering a Sub-100 SubSonex kit plus PBS TJ-100 engine for $97,000, and allowing customers to split costs over the span of the aircraft’s build time. A BRS airframe parachute is an option. The airframe kit alone without an engine, avionics, upholstery, and finishing materials is $42,000.

Bob Carlton will perform his SubSonex aerobatic airshow act and night performance during Sun ‘n Fun. You can see his routine here as performed last year during EAA AirVenture.

Sonex is also offering a quickbuild kit for the Xenos Motorglider. The airframe kit without an engine or avionics is $16,000.

The larger cockpit features more panel space and a Y-stick. Image courtesy of Sonex Aircraft.

The larger cockpit features more panel space and a Y-stick. Image courtesy of Sonex Aircraft.

Sun ‘n Fun Ready For Early Launch

Mary Grady – AvWeb

Sun N Fun

It’s barely April, and some parts of the East Coast woke to snowfalls this morning, but in Lakeland, Florida, it’s time for an early start to flying season with the opening of Sun ‘n Fun. The show has been tweaking its dates for several years, trying to satisfy fly-in pilots in search of perfect weather and vendors who juggle the show’s schedule with the Aero Friedrichshafen general aviation event, in Germany. Last year, by comparison, the show didn’t start until April 21. This year it runs April 5 to 10, Tuesday through Sunday. According to local weather reports, it should be mostly clear and dry all week, with temps around 80 and just a chance of showers on Thursday. AVweb staffers are now arriving at the show and will provide daily coverage to your inbox starting Tuesday morning.

Among the news expected this week from Sun ‘n Fun are new product announcements from engine and avionics manufacturers, updates on new airplanes in the works and all the latest details from the big airplane companies. Aviation experts and advocates have had a chance now to look over the FAA’s proposed new rules for certifying Part 23 airplanes, so that’s expected to be a major topic of discussion. An update on the FAA’s progress toward approving a lead-free avgas also is expected. And there will be plenty of airshow acts as well, with a demo by Red Bull pilots Michael Goulian and Kirby Chambliss on the agenda, plus the Brietling Jet Team, and a night airshow on Saturday. The F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter will visit the show for the first time. Also exhibiting at Sun ‘n Fun for the first time will be Icon, with their A5 light sport aircraft on display.AVweb will be there and bring you daily reports, with stories, videos and podcasts, all week long.