The most recent annual economic impact for the Moore County Airport (KSOP) has increased to over $107 million, placing the airport in the top 15 of the General Aviation Airports in North Carolina.
This data was recently published by the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Division of Aviation and followed the State of Aviation biannual report developed by North Carolina State University’s Institute for Transportation Research and Education (ITRE). The impact during the last study was $93 million, which shows an increase of $14 million over the past three years.
In total, the economic impact of all of North Carolina’s public airports, including 10 commercial service airports and 62 general aviation airports, is $72 billion, including 330,000 jobs generating $23 billion in personal income.
“Moore County Airport continues to be an engine of economic growth and opportunity for the people of Moore County,” said Mike Jones, chairman of the Moore County Airport Authority. “That’s our number one job, and we take it very seriously. Every investment we make at the airport is focused on the potential impact that decision will have on our local economy.”
Along with the fiscal impact, the local airport is directly responsible for creating nearly 600 local jobs, $36 million in personal income and over $4 million in state and local tax revenues. Today, the airport hosts two flight schools, an active aircraft maintenance facility, and eight private aeronautical businesses. The airport also is home to the only full-motion three-axis general airplane simulator in the state, which helps train new pilots. Over 100 customers permanently park their aircraft at the airport. Additional hangar space is now under construction, and additional ramp space and larger “corporate” hangars are on the drawing board as part of the airport’s strategic plan for the future.
Moore County Airport’s Director Ron Maness, who returned to manage the airport for a fourth time in 2022, has a watchful eye on the projects that are in progress and those that are soon to evolve at the facility.
“There are so many great things happening at the airport these days,” said Maness. “I’m really excited to be opening our 17 new hangars next month, and soon we’re going to be bidding out the construction of an additional hangar for larger aircraft.”
Maness also explained that the airport has a new maintenance building in the works, the runway is being completely refurbished, and an energy-saving state-of-the-art LED lighting system will soon replace the 30-year-old incandescent lights lining the runway and taxiways. If everything goes according to schedule, this spring, multiple construction projects at the airport will be underway simultaneously.
The airport also has begun planning for the upcoming 2024 U.S. Open Championship, which will bring more than 2,000 private flights to the Pinehurst area during the championship week. A long-needed update to the main terminal building is planned before the Open since the terminal’s current design is dated and energy inefficient. These renovations include a new entrance at the front of the building and an improved arrival experience for arriving passengers. Additional elements will improve the passenger flow through the terminal, relocate the car rental desk to a more efficient space, update the waiting room seating and décor, and refurbish the restrooms.
“We want every guest coming to Pinehurst to have a wonderful and positive experience,” Jones explained, “and that experience should start the moment their plane lands.” Other longer-range plans include significant airport facilities expansions, including a restaurant, the possible deployment of a larger passenger terminal and many new corporate hangars.
Given that the airport covers more than 500 acres of relatively flat land, another emerging focus at the airport is to sponsor events that will engage nonflying residents of the county and attract them to the airport. The annual Festival D’Avion will continue each October. This is a celebration of freedom and flight, honoring the men and women who serve in the armed forces. The airport is also planning a wide array of additional events this spring and summer, ranging from a community open house, runway 5k foot races, fly-in events with food trucks, blood drives, and premium car shows.
Looking to 2025 and beyond, the airport is preparing for the introduction of a new breed of flying vehicles that resemble electric helicopters. Boeing, Airbus and more than 200 other companies are exploring this exciting new technology. Conceptually, these quiet, environmentally progressive aircraft would transport passengers to and from Raleigh-Durham International in just 20 minutes at a cost similar to current car service companies. These aircraft would loop between at a special “vertiport” facility at each airport to recharge their batteries, making as many as twelve flights each day.
While the county owns the airport, it is self-supported by fuel sales and hangar rentals. The most significant capital projects are funded principally with state and federal grants. Currently, the county does not contribute any money to the operation of the airport, even though the airplanes parked at the airport generate about $250,000 in county property taxes.
(Original Article contributed to Sandhills Sentinel)