Rep. Price on the airport

Priscilla Murphy's picture

Received the following from Rep. Price on the airport. Others may have received essentially the same communication, so apologies if this has already appeared elsewhere.

Noted, #1: the overt designation (twice) of the proposed airport as a "general aviation airport" - not a "University airport."

Noted, #2: his disavowal of having any role, even with his acknowledgment that funding and eminent domain are concerns. And while he does believe that OC board should join UNC and NCGA in the decision process, the outer limit of citizens' role or power should be "input."

Noted, #3: the specific information about funding sources -- indication is that the state legislature actually could/will control funding. Not necessarily news but a clear suggestion about where the action ultimately could/will be - not encouraging for opponents.

Noted, #4: the reference to private funding - an acknowledgment that if they wish, private interests can buy and build the airport, including imposition of eminent domain - which may be a reminder-nod in the direction of where the power lies. Coupled with "Noted, #3" (NCGA's role) -- a roadmap for decision vectors.

(But see my previous post on handicapping the scenarios for the probabilities here, HWA vs. OC airport vs. RDU.)

Dear Dr. Murphy:

Thank you for contacting me regarding a proposed general aviation airport in Orange County. I have talked with a number of citizens about this matter and have more meetings scheduled in the days ahead.

As you know, on August 8, 2008, the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) approved Senate Bill 1925 (S.B. 1925), which would authorize the University of North Carolina (UNC) Board of Governors to establish an airport authority to locate, build and operate a general aviation airport in Orange County. The newly proposed general aviation airport is intended to replace UNC's Horace Williams airport, which UNC officials want to close in order to make room for the proposed Carolina North campus.

Many residents of Orange County are concerned about where the airport might be sited, and the impact it would have on the watershed and local environmental protections. These concerns have been heightened by the fact that S.B. 1925 gives the airport authority powers of eminent domain, and the legislation is vague about the county's role in the siting decision.

As a federal official, I will not have a say in this decision. However, my own view, based on past observation of similar decision processes, is that this should not be a decision for the NCGA or UNC alone. It should be jointly undertaken by University authorities and the Orange County Board of Commissioners, with full citizen input.

Funding a general aviation airport, even if it indirectly involves some federal funds, will not be a direct Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) decision. North Carolina is one of several states to which the FAA provides aviation funding en bloc, with no direct FAA involvement in how the funding is allocated by the state. It is also possible that a new airport could be funded entirely from state and private funds; that was the case, for example, with the Horace Williams Airport.

I hope to be helpful in this matter, but from the outset want to be straightforward about the fact that I lack the authority to intervene directly in either siting or funding decisions.

I hope this information is useful. I will continue to monitor developments related to the airport closely, keeping your concerns in mind. Thanks again for contacting me.

Sincerely,

DAVID PRICE

Member of Congress

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4 Comments

Fred Black's picture

GA

By the common definition, HWA is a general aviation airport owned and operated by UNC.

Sci-Tech Encyclopedia: General aviation

All aircraft activity not associated with major airlines or the military. Among all classifications of aviation in the United States, general aviation consists of the largest number of aircraft and pilots and accounts for the largest number of flying hours.

Of the more than 220,000 active general aviation aircraft registered by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), almost 80% are single-engine vehicles powered by intermittent-combustion engines. Although many of these aircraft carry fewer than three passengers at speeds below 150 mi/h (240 km/h), most can carry four to six passengers at speeds up to 200 mi/h (320 km/h). Approximately 11% of the general aviation fleet are twin-engine aircraft, powered by intermittent-combustion engines and capable of cruising at speeds of 180–250 mi/h (290–400 km/h) with six to ten passengers.

In the GA Directory, there are four airports listed in "Chapel Hill," interestingly enough. Three are private.

http://www.airnav.com/airports/get

 

Priscilla Murphy's picture

Useful clarification, Fred.

Useful clarification, Fred.

Of course, HWA's official designation is as a gen. aviation airport, as opposed to a commercial or military airport. I merely noted the terminology - which Price used twice in a short space - because a certain amount of the discussion of HWA (and the OC jetport) has tended to focus on it as a University-owned and -operated facility, particularly as a base for AHEC -- and from there have flowed perceptions and proposals about what the University should be doing with "its" airport. Goes to the basic question of the purpose of the airport -- to serve the University's mission or to serve general aviation's interests.

Fred Black's picture

BUT,

UNC did accept federal dollars for all sorts of projects, safety related and otherwise, and by doing so it is "open" to those who follow their rules.