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Thu, Jun 30, 2005

The Battle Over Horace Williams

North Carolina Pilots Take Action To Save North Carolina Airport

AOPA says it's is using every resource necessary to save Horace Williams Airport at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. More than 10,000 North Carolina members are stepping up in full force to tell legislators to save the airport, according to the advocacy group.

Members of the North Carolina General Assembly are meeting now, and it is possible that the future of the airport could be decided as early as this week. That is why AOPA is urging all pilots to contact their legislators to tell House Speaker Jim Black and Senate Pro Tem Marc Basnight one message: Keep Horace Williams open!

Horace Williams is also the home of the university's Area Health Education Center's (AHEC) Medical Air Operations. UNC, which owns the airport, wants to close it to develop the land and move AHEC's air operations to Raleigh Durham International Airport (RDU).

"[As] a UNC medical faculty member who over the past 30 years has seen the Area Health Education Centers system grow and flourish as a health care resource to all North Carolinians, largely because of the transportation facility provided by Horace Williams, there is no viable alternative to Horace Williams; medical faculty members will not drive 45 minutes to RDU," one member wrote to the legislators.

Another member wrote, "Imagine a child from Ashe County who needs to spend weeks at UNC hospital; or a grandmother on the Outer Banks who needs chemotherapy at Duke periodically over a period of weeks or months. Are they to drive four or five hours each way?"

But the airport is used by more than AHEC's medical operations unit. It often is used by prospective students visiting the college and by parents visiting their children at UNC's Chapel Hill campus.

"I am the parent of a rising Soph[omore] at UNC-CH. Two weeks ago, I passed my checkride to become a private pilot. The primary reason for doing so was to be able to visit her regularly. It would be disappointing if Horace Williams was closed," another member explained.

In May the university managed to sneak a last-minute anti-airport provision into a Senate budget bill that would allow the university to close Horace Williams almost immediately if its (AHEC) Medical Air Operations moved to RDU Airport. To counter the attack, AOPA worked with North Carolina House leaders to amend their version of the budget to keep the airport open until at least next summer.



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