A number of pilots are looking for a more productive relationship with respect to the path the Williamsburg Regional Airport is taking. The men have been going beyond their flying expertise, volunteering their time and even their funds to maintain the airport grounds. Their efforts, in part, are keeping the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and its regulations satisfied but time is running out as the airport is in violation of a number of FAA regulations.
The FAA has recommended Williamsburg County Council establish an advisory board, or aeronautics commission; however, council has been dragging its feet. Years ago an aeronautics commission was established to oversee operations but the group was abolished in 1998, leaving the airport with little oversight. That same year Williamsburg County Attorney Billy Jenkinson drafted a governance package but council essentially shelved the strategy. In 2007, council engaged a consulting firm who issued a report on airport governance but that too fell by the wayside.
In August 2012, Interim Aeronautics Director Jack Whiteside appealed to council for governance as well as revenue to keep the facility up and running. Whiteside also said current grant funds could be jeopardized if something wasn't done soon. The following month Jenkinson presented council with a revamped plan that was prepared several years prior that provided the future course the county should take with respect to the airport.
During council's November 26, meeting the pilots expressed their wish to play an active part in the commission and urged council to make a move. "Regardless of whether we have the commission established or not, the airport is moving forward," said Richard Haddock, a pilot. He added they have been meeting with the FAA and the State Aeronautics Commission to discuss grants and future projects. "I feel like we're moving forward and the county is sitting back here and hasn't established anything yet."
County attorney Billy Jenkinson suggested the commission be made up of persons experienced in the aeronautics. "Rather than just any council district, we would prefer five well qualified people that have aeronautic backgrounds," said Jenkinson. Guy McClary, a pilot and owner of Williamsburg Air Service, agreed. "A lot of people don't know what we do," said McClary. "We cut the grass, we keep the lights up and if something breaks, we're there. If you get this committee up and there's somebody way over there or way over there, who's going to come help us come and cut the grass? I'll guarantee you, the people you're already talking about all around this county knows very little about aeronautics, will not come out and help us do one thing." Council would later approve first reading to create the commission. A second reading was scheduled during council's December 3, regular meeting.