Airport welcomes new chief

March 21, 2019

John Carroll took the reins at Richard B. Russell Regional Airport this week and found out the airport is showing a $33,729 profit two months into 2019. Carroll also spent some time learning the airport grounds a little better while escorting inspectors from the Georgia Department of Transportation aviation wing for their annual review of the airport Tuesday.

Floyd County Assistant Manager Gary Burkhalter, who has been overseeing operations at the airport for the last nine months, explained that through the month of February, fuel sales are up $25,000 as compared to the first two months of last year. Overall, revenues are up 20 percent while expenditures are down 12 percent, leading to the positive financial report during the Airport Commission meeting.

“We’re starting off the year very well,” Burkhalter said.

Burkhalter said local leaders who went to Washington D.C. earlier this month met with Federal Aviation Administration officials to see if grant money could be generated to get all of the funding necessary for the 1,200-foot addition to the main runway at Admiral John H. Towers Field. Floyd County Manager Jamie McCord said he was particularly hopeful for additional federal money because U.S. Department of Transportation officials were not aware that Floyd County was coming to the table with more than $5 million in local funding for the project.

“Hopefully that will carry some weight,” McCord said. “We’re going to get the project done, one way or another.”

McCord did say if new federal money comes to the airport for the runway extension, it many mean the project will have to be rebid with the myriad of federal strings that come attached to the money.

Consultant Mike Van Wie told airport commissioners that work on a new overlay on the secondary runway should start around April 1 and be completed in less than a month.

Alfred “Spanky” Carnes, a veteran local pilot, told commissioners they might want to think about adding some new hangars at the airport. He said general aviation interest was growing again and the airport in Calhoun was in the process of adding 18 new hangars.

Burkhalter said the county was in the process of adding four new hangars. A large multi-use building, which could serve as a corporate jet type of hangar, is included in the 2019 SPLOST package.

Carnes also suggested it may be time for resurfacing of some of the taxiways between rows of existing hangars.

John Cowman, who runs the Wings Over North Georgia air show, reported federal authorities had nixed the idea of air races at this year’s Labor Day weekend show. Cowman is in the process of trying to revive those plans, pointing out that the course for the duel air match-races does not direct aircraft toward the crowd. Otherwise, the 2019 show was looking to be in good shape with a full lineup to be announced later.