Thorp Interview on the Jetport

I was struck by the circular logic displayed by UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp in his Chapel Hill News interview. To me, (and I admit having researched the issue and made my mind up about it) the notion of taking land by eminent domain, tearing up the countryside and spending 40-50 million of my tax money is just not justified by a dodgy economic "working paper" and Thorp saying "It's better for us to have a regional airport".

CHN: If RDU was acceptable then and it's acceptable in the interim, what difference does it make whether you take 35 minutes to get to an airport or 25 minutes to get to an airport.

Thorp: Because we can develop our own operations.

CHN: I don't know what that means.

Thorp: We have pilots that have their own airport. Like I said, it's better for us to have a regional airport, and that's what we're exploring the possibility of.

- | Thorp: UNC needs airport, 10/15/08



Clearly the new Chancellor was just doing his duty promoting the airport on behalf of the corporate powers that are driving this project. His answers ran the gamut from uninformed fluff to just plain inadequate. I guess in his defense we should remember that he is new on the job and this issue caught up to him quicker than he had hoped. On the other hand, we should expect more from a Chancellor.

I bet Roger Perry and the big money boys who consider our communities their playhouse wish they'd gotten to him sooner with some sturdier talking points.

Great job by Mark Schultz and the CH News to ask the relevant questions and allow us a glimpse at the thought process behind this boondoggle. 


I was disappointed to see that Thorp is supporting this process and not going with the RDU recommendation.  The use of eminent domain is not a power that officials should use without very clear and significant reasons.  I've not seen that case made.  I'm also wondering, how many universities actually have a regional airport that supports their mission (in the presence of a large airport)?  

I thought about this interview and the airport last night when I was following a Tarheel blue taxi – minivan..  On the back was the lettering “$25 to RDU” along with the phone number and the URL of the taxi company.


25 bucks to get someone to the airport. How many trips to the airport would a million dollars buy?


Imagine; UNC could retain 4 of these taxi’s and let the guys play cards all day in the PIT, as long as they would jump when they were needed to take someone to the airport or pick someone up.   They could probably secure these guys for about 40K a year each, for a total cost of 160k a year.  How many years of using that system would it take to add up to the costs of building a new airport somewhere out in rural Orange or Chatham counties?



John Rees

The service that the University provides is that the UNC fleet flys medical personnel to remote parts of our state that would not otherwise have this health care service. A flight to asheville for example takes 1 hour, but if you drive it takes 4 hrs. So thats 3 hrs of health care that can't be given to some needy sole. Its not just the drive to RDU thats the difference. If youre a pilot you would know that RDU is a busy place, sometimes it takes  along time just to get airborne because youre sitting behind a line of airline carriers. However with an uncontrolled airport nearer to chapel hill, you can simply fire it up and takeoff without unneeded delay. I understand that the people in chapel hill don't want to lose there land, or whatever but isn't chapel hill a town that has always tried to commend the greater good? or is it just another town where people want what they want, end of story?

It is likely there would be far less outcry if this airport were being developed as a replacement, more or less, for the functions served by the Horace Williams Airport, serving the people through AHEC, etc.  No doubt what we are seeing is the commonly applied tactic of pushing by the powers-that-be to go far beyond what they expect to finally get in negotiations (in terms of the airport's size and scope), so that they will have some ground to give (no pun intended) later.  This approach, in my view, is one that is not fully respectful of many stakeholders.  But then, it appears that many of the stakeholders, including the County Commissioners, have not been sufficiently involved.  Such approaches end up making things far more difficult than they need be.

 On another note, it seems to me that all parties may benefit from looking at the financial and other aspects of other universities' airports.  For example, the one at UC Davis ( is the only one serving a university in California.  Is it a money loser or money maker?  Does being tied to a land-grand school help justify it?  Where is it located in terms of neighbors and what do they think about it as a neighbor?  Does it allow jets?   It seems to me there is fodder for study of other university airports, such as this one at UC Davis, to learn a lot about what might best be done here, and how.

What bothers me is the university is not exhibiting any creativity in it solutions. There is simply a knee jerk assumption is that first there is a problem, and second it needs to be solved by another airport.

In point of fact AHEC flights are decreasing. High speed telecommunication links are providing distance learning and more, remote sites are improving services and needs are changing. I am not saying that there is absolutely no need for AHEC flights, but they could be significantly reduced. Minor scheduling changes could also be used to ease any delays on the RDU runways.

UNC's own 2005 study from the premiere airport consultant group on the east coast said AHEC would be best served by relocating operations to RDU.

What if the 50 million was used to extend AHEC to VA hospitals and help some of the kids coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan rather than trying to solve today's issues with yesterday's solution?

Heck yes, AHEC flights are decreasing with the writing on the wall years ago warning the whole operation is toast.  I am really irked about the way AHEC is getting tossed around like an inflatable ball when it got lost in the shuffle of Carolina North planning from the start.  The very first map showed the ghost of HWA; on subsequent maps it disappeared.  Now we're talking about a "jetport" which implies a whole different purpose.  RDU is the closest, safest jetport available to UNC for corporate and private use.  The taxi service proposed by John Rees, or something quite similar, would satisfy visiting VIPs and weekend alumni alike.  Chancellor Thorp is bending to some other pressure.  

And at the risk of sounding like a stuck record, for the third and last time I must point out that the E in AHEC stands for EDUCATION.  




If I were a part of AHEC, I would resent being used in this way. I hate that a valuable and respected program like AHEC is being used as a teflon vest for this jetport.

Accusations of NIMBY completely miss the point; the proposed jetport has yet to have any serious justification. The process so far has been cloaked in secrecy, bypassing representation, with stacked decks and schemes to take land by force. This is the exact opposite of how a project that has real benefit is launched.

Va Tech has an airport. Roanoke regional is 45 minutes away.

Unlike HWA that is operated by UNC, the operation of their airport was turned over to the Virginia Tech-Montgomery Airport Authority in 2003. The Authority currently has a 50-year lease with the University.


... have general aviation airports immediately nearby.  Most of those are run by municipalities.  Stanford?  Cornell?  UVa?  PSU?  U of Ga.?  I keep looking and find that all but those in dense urban areas are so served.  It seems like it would be easier to find one that is NOT served!  Even Princeton, in the middle of the nation's most densely populated state, has a local airport!

Why didn't Chapel Hill take the advantage-position years ago and take over and run Horace Williams as a municipal resource; indeed, a profit center?  Who knows, seems like a lack of foresight to me.  Somebody around here has adopted some kind of weird idea that Chapel Hill can exist in a transportation vacuum and yet still attract smart growth capital and interest from innovative people.  It might be a nice place to live, but it's not the only nice place.  I'm not a pilot, but I can say that most general aviation users I know, more than a few, are regular folks, just like me.  The 'fat cat' charge by many class warfarists in this community just does not hold water.

Listen to the hue and cry about even the IDEA of taking land - 1 mile's worth - for a new public transportation right-of-way.  This is when doing so disrupts just a few dozen landowners.  Can you imagine how hard it would be to put in a light rail which affects 20 times as many?  You'd be fighting the NIMBYs for decades.  Every mile would cost $100 million plus.  Was it all that long ago that I-40 was put through Orange County?  It coudn't happen today.

By the way, try an experiment sometime:  at 8 AM, leave the front door of UNC Hospitals and drive to the general aviation terminal at RDU.  See if you can beat my 12-year every-day average of 45 minutes; for all practical purposes, a 2 hour round-trip.  It's among the most crazy and unpredictable commutes in the region, and is longer time-wise than it takes to fly to Asheville from Chapel Hill.

Given what personal transportation will look like in 50 years, it's frankly nuts that there's even any question about what we should be doing.  The dinosaur giant airports (and ridiculously inefficient passenger jets) we have used for 50 years are destined for the junque heap.  And North Carolina is expected to be leading in this path, which is in part why Honda's aircraft factory is in Greensboro and why GE's engine plant in Durham has done so well.  Chancellor Thorpe has it 100% correct, as I would expect from a true visionary leader.

Lead, follow, or get out of the way.

In 1997 when the Town of Chapel Hill HWA Committee did our reprot, we looked at four university operated airports - Perdue, Auburn, U of OK, and Ohio State.  Don't know their current status but back then, all of them had more acrage, had longer  (and more) runways, had maintenance facilities, and two of the four did not allow commercial activity to operate out of the facility, like HWA. All accepted federal support which is important because it means that they must complete and update their master plan.

As a practical matter, more universities seem to be moving in the same direction as VA Tech, for obvious reasons.

Please register as an OP user.  You are plainly one of the small minority of people who flies in and out of Horace Williams Airport, or so we will have to assume because you choose to remain anonymous.

"Listen to the hue and cry about even the IDEA of taking land - 1 mile's worth"

I wonder if you would say that if it was your family's farm that was proposed to be taken?

Airports are 20th century solution. The university has 21st century problems. UNC, Duke, NCCU and NCSU - all great universities, have a local airport. It is called RDU. That is why Talbert and Bright, the premere airport consulting firm on the east coast, concluded it was the best solution for AHEC.

As far as the lad taking goes, try looking at it as acreage. It's 1000+ acres.

I can drive from my house 10+ miles west of UNC hospiutal to RDU in under 45 minutes, and the Talber & Bright study confirms that UNC Hospital is *well* within the 30 mile drive time required to seperate NPIAS airports.

If you think the Thorpe interview was an example of vision, you and I just disagree. If everyone at the university is thinking the same thing, then someone is not thinking. 

1. Airports require much more space than just the runway strip, as you must know. An airport with a runway over 5000' would require a bit more than 800 acres clear of all residences plus a bit more than 5000 acres with only non-residential or very low density (1 unit per 5 acres) residential building, for safety and other considerations. A total of just over 5800 acres equals just over 9 square miles.

2. There are public general aviation airports near Chapel Hill, including RDU and Sanford, as well as the various private general aviation airports, at least one of which is close enough to disqualify one proposed Orange County site.

3. The NIMBY argument never gets off the ground, unless those who label others that way are themselves willing to have a landfill, a homeless shelter, or a motor-cycle muffler repair shop in their own back yard. Why not an acronym for "In Your Yard and You Pay": IYYAYP?

4. Pilots are only part of the lobbying groups pushing to impose a tax-funded general aviation airport on Orange County, using the University as conduit-authority. The group includes plane owners who hire pilots to fly their planes, plane chartering businesses, and those corporate and wealthy private parties who do the chartering of those planes.

You identify yourself as a "general aviation user" who apparently has driven to RDU's general aviation terminal daily ("every-day") or at least very frequently for the last 12 years, and neither gone bankrupt nor been egregiously harmed by the 45 min. on the road. Moreover, you are concerned with attracting "smart growth capital and interest from innovative people," with discernible contempt for the so-called 'class-warfare' waged by those who just don't buy the PR campaign to sell what a great "asset" an airport is. Anonymity does not mask the well-designed and scripted arguments of those very lobbyists who architected this classic end-run around the community and taxpayers.

5. Then there's the money. In an economic crisis of staggering proportions, you're asking us to agree that a few minutes' convenience is worth $50 million of our already vanishing money, and the involuntary sacrifice of citizens' private property.

It is nonetheless useful to our discussion to have your perspective presented here, because it gives us a chance to recognize and underscore the many problems with it.

RDU is in fact an airport local to UNC.  And it has big general aviation (read:  small planes) component.  Ride up by the control tower (turn right between terminals toward it) and you'll see general aviation there has its own terminal and cafe.  Ithaca, New York, home of Cornell, has an airport because it is a small town not near a major airport, and the same can be said of Penn State and many other major schools in the boondocks.  Chapel Hill is not.  And the airport serving towns like Princeton are small affairs, like the Horace Williams airport.  For heavy lifting and distance travel, Princeton people use Newark.  Such small airports are not profit centers.  And let's be clear:  airports are operated by tax money.  There is no way such an airport will ever pay for itself.
Seems like every time criticism is leveled at something that benefits a tiny minority of wealthy people these days, that criticism is dismissed as "class warfare." Your airplane-owning buddies may be "regular guys," but like it or not, plane owners are by and large among the disproportionately wealthy, even in relatively affluent Orange County. It's a simple fact that the non-AHEC users of the proposed airport will be a small group of mostly rich people, and that the alleged economic benefits, if there are any, will be primarily of the trickle-down variety. If pointing this out is class warfare, then maybe it's time to engage the battle. 95 percent of us have nothing to fear from that.....

Good points regarding AHEC.  Modern technology could reduce the number of trips by physicians to outlying areas of the state. 

Here's an idea:  put the $50 million into a high speed train/monorail between Chapel Hill and the airport, running through RTP on the way.  This would benefit all, giving a quick, convenient ride to the airport for AHEC folks.

 Such approaches need to be thrown into the mix, with all the stakeholders involved.  Come on, UNC, do you really want to expend so much in legal fees to get something done here?

 Next steps may very well be Freedom of Information Act requests to all the UNC folks involved.  Let's see all the emails, memos, reports, etc. that they've generated (and will generate) as this thing unfolds.  We also have the Public Records Act and nothing about this airport and its planning can be properly considered proprietary, trade secret information (the only exception to the Public Records Act....UNC can't get away with that claim.

(I hasten to add the caveat that I am not an attorney; but the rules and regulations are freely available on the internet for all to see, and to apply.) 

I had the same idea myself.  I don't know how via train-type things are with such a spread out population but if there's one place it would make sense to go to it seems like it'd be the airport.  Everytime I go there there are cars calore.

 I fly out of RDU 5-6 times per year and between gas and parking it costs me $200-300 depending on whether I park in the garage close to the terminals or farther out and take the shuttle to the terminal.  And of course it's also a hassle fighting traffic.

  Maybe if adding a line from CH to the airport also made it easier for AHEC or whatever it is) that'd make that much more reason for a line.  Then again, I think I'll be realistic and acknowledge that it won't get done.

 By the way, why do we have all the doctors living here and then have them fly out to various parts of the state?  Why don't we instead have them just live there?  And then occassionally come here for continuing education to make sure they stay up to date?

I have to say I felt a bit bad for Thorp while reading that interview.  He's a new guy and I want him to do well but the interviewer kept asking why a separate airport from RDU was needed and kept saying, basically, because it's better, which of course is no answer at all.  There is some reason that UNC wants its own airport and for whatever reason the head guy has to just say "It's better" instead of explaining it.

"By the way, why do we have all the doctors living here and then have them fly out to various parts of the state?"

This is a problem everywhere.  Doctors are highly educated people with high incomes and (understandably) want a good quality of life.  That ends up meaning that there are some areas of the US with lots of doctors and other areas with few or none.  Different states deal with this problem in different ways, but in NC we use AHEC flights.

Physicians also tend to congregate where there are hospitals.  AHEC people going out of UNC bring with them the best of what a teaching hospital offers, and also they can bring patient back to UNC for hospital care when needed.

Be aware that these flights are to take people -- not just doctors but nurses and others who will staff clinics and educate via lectures -- not to the boonies but to areas that already have clinics but want either additional assistance or added education.  As it happens, some of these areas -- e.g., Charlotte -- now have enough resources, facilities, and personnel that they have less and less need of such outreach (and which often only require ground transportation).

So it really isn't a matter of where doctors want to live or practice in NC;  it's a matter of where in the AHEC system there's either a desire or a need for educational outreach.


Chancellor Thorp fumbled that interview pretty badly, and I felt sorry for him too.  The poor guy is playing administrative whack-a-mole already.  Mark Schultz is a very rough interviewer playing the "I don't know what that means" card much too early in the game.  Thorp will learn soon enought not to let himself get painted into corners like that.  For now, I think he deserves a break.  I see in today's N&O that his family is moving next week.  Try to imagine the disruption, the distraction, the big surprise of holding the bag. 

I have to disagree about the Mark Schultz interview, however. I think the hard questions need to be asked and answered about this subject and the sooner the better.

Chancellor Thorp needs to reflect, answer honestly about the disruption, distraction and big surprise of holding the bag this airport proposal would impose on other families whose land is taken or might be forced to live near this jetport.

As someone who works for UNC, I vote for the monorail idea.  Why duplicate services by having another airport?  The monorail would serve the greater community of people who will need to get to RDU even if UNC gets another airport.  It will also serve AHEC etc.   Of course there will be eminent domain issues there also, but not as bad as a new airport.


The economy is in the toilet and it's likely to be so for at least several years.  The state budget may have as much as a 2 billion dollar shortfall this year.  The federal budget deficit ...well, to paraphrase Everitt Dirksen, a trillion here, a trillion there, before you know it you're talking real money.  It's unlikely that there's going to be a lot of money for anything let alone another airport.  That's not to say that people shouldn't be vigilant, but that this should not be considered a priority for public money when there are so many other needs that will go wanting. 

And, when we do finally come out of that crisis, there's the prospect of peak oil driving fuel prices much much higher than we have recently seen...and that means finding much more efficient ways to travel and then only when necessary. Air travel is likely to become a rare and expensive proposition until we invent and commercialize the algae or bacteria that produces jet fuel.

In addition to a high speed rail system connecting towns in the RTP area, how about investing in high speed rail throughout the state and nation.  It's much more energy efficient to move on the surface than to escape gravity.  And it can run on electricity which can be generated from renewables we know how to use today.  Oh, and think of all the green jobs such an investment would produce in the service of a 21st century transportation infrastructure.

Common use of air travel is likely to be a thing of the past in the not-to-distant future.

 My two cents.  Lee Rafalow

Lee, I agree.

Speaking of electricity, my understanding is that one of the biggest obstacles to moving to a partially renewable (we are still a long way from being fossil fuels free) energy base in this country is the notion of base load. Base load is defined as the minimum constant load on the electrical grid. Because a lot of the proven alternative energy sources, solar, wind, tidal are cyclical and intermittent in nature, they are problematic when it comes to contributing to base load.

What is needed is a way to store and transmit the energy gathered from intermittent renewable sources as a steady base load.

Another emerging area is the long haul - hi voltage transmission of power as DC current rather than AC (HVDC). I think there is a lot of potential research and improvement in this area as well as in the DC-AC interconnections that would complement the storage of baseload capacity.

IMO these are two emerging areas UNC could lead in and as a byproduct generate jobs in the Orange County area.

Is that one can easily change voltage via transformers, at relatively low loss.  Not so for DC.  This was sorted out 100 years ago, and the laws of physics have not changed since then.  The DC voltage proponents are ones that are into Solar, and to a lesser extent wind, which by nature cannot generate AC at a fixed frequency.  They are wrong about DC being superior, or even something worth looking at.

Blog entry sometime soon. if Ruby doesn't kick me out of here first. I do think you are wrong to dismiss HVDC out of hand when it comes to *long haul* electrical transmission. static thyristor inverters are expensive (one area for study) , multi terminal is too complex (another) and active power management is yet another.

Fewer, thinner conductors (or more power per conductor), less loss (reduction of the capacitance effect), and as you point out, synchronization for power produced by renewable resources all point to areas where this technology might be refined to be very useful for connecting relatively remote areas where renewable energy might be generated (wind corridors in the plains for example) to storage and then the rest of the grid.

I agree, for the reasons you suggest DC transmission is inferior to AC for local power.

BTW I also agree with Mark that a distributed grid with small amounts of surplus power generated at many locations would serve to reduce the base load and be advantageous for the reasons he suggests. Unfortunately the technology is still too expensive, complex and dangerous for the majority of people (I use my mother as the ultimate consumer test) and that is another area for refinement.

is the notion that centralized energy brought to us by the big utilities is the model we should continue pursuing.

 Decentralized power generation is more efficient, less polluting, more democratic, way more secure, more aesthetically pleasing (no power lines, towers, etc.) and ultimately less expensive. The major drawback is that it threatens the monopoly control by the energy mafia who are sucking money out of us in a very refined system of corporate socialism.

(The power for this computer is being generated fifteen feet way on my roof.)

Rereading the chancellor Thorp interview, I wonder if UNC can clearly articulate the problem they are trying to solve?

If they can actually refine a problem statement, I would like the university to explore creative solutions because I think that investing in advances in distance learning, telepresence, medical telemetry and other possible solutions that have not occurred to me would provide many more jobs, attract more investment and areas for research than yet another airport.


Okay, TBlake, you're absolutely right.  The CHN questions (Mark Schultz) were not out of line.  I always wished I could spike a volleyball.  Bam!  - c. 

I have it from a reliable and well-placed source deep within the university's administration that the search for a new airport location within Orange County is actually little more than a ruse.

What Dean Roper, Bill Faison and others are REALLY trying to do is bolster their case for having a local airport, then agree not to site a new airport elsewhere as long as they can keep HWA where it is and build Carolina North around it.

This is exactly what UNC's previous consultant group (Ayres/St. Gross) suggested back in the late nineties, claiming that the two entities could co-exist in harmony.

I would recommend that county commisioners and CH town council members plan now for this contingency - unless they don't mind having a new, upgraded jetport in the middle of our busy community.

Hopefully, OP readers will understand why names haven't been listed with this post.

Thank You.


If it's just a ruse, they've gone to an awful lot of trouble to focus on OC, scope out sites, sell the idea to the public, not to mention getting the legislation to appropriate land and take time to appoint an authority. 

On the other hand, if the purpose of the legislation was -- deep behind the press releases -- to be able to take land around CN to expand the airport, the town will go nuts about that (it's densely populated - a lot of people would lose their homes and the town could lose 4 schools); and you'd have to believe that the University is actually planning a smaller CN development to leave enough space for the bigger airport.   Which plan -- OC or HWA -- would actually stir up more hornets?

The docs who participate in AHEC want the airport.  The airport will help to attract the technology-sharing ventures that are central to the UNC's future and, more importantly, to NC's future.  Many, many major universities have comparable airports. The fifth amendment to the Constitution enables eminent domain with "just compensation."  The state legislature will make it happen for the common welfare (as judged by them).  All the rest is grumble grumble grumble.

Bottom line: many AHEC doctors have signed the petition against the airport. Conversations with legislators reveal the sentiment that "AHEC itself is not enough to justify a new airport". Hence the economic "working paper". Unfortunately for the proponents, the economic value of the "working paper" has been effectively challenged by Professor of Economics Mitch Renko of N.C. State.

BTW let me take this opportunity to point folks to our nascent web site:

Please support your statement, "Many, many major universities have comparable airports." I would especially like to know about the ones that are within a city like ours.

Ditto Fred's comment. Moreover:

It's not the AHEC docs who have the clout to have made this happen, it's their general aviation pals who want a general aviation airport for their own use. The AHEC docs, as well as the other AHEC participants who travel (it's not all docs) can and often do make do with ground transportation, and the RDU alternative is fine for many AHEC participants. As noted above, as clinical programs develop around the state, the need for AHEC air travel is decreasing.

There's certainly some overlap between the general aviation group and both some of the AHEC officers and some UNC board members, but it's disingenuous to say that "AHEC docs" are who drove the legislation and the second T&B study.

As for eminent domain, it wasn't intended for use by unelected people acting on behalf of private interests. If it were your land being appropriated for a motocross development, I daresay you'd grumble.

The N&O has recently revealed that the Talbert & Bight economic study was funded in large part by Jim Heavner, local businessman and an avid pilot with a private plane based at HWA.

This seems, at the very least, to present a serious ethical problem for UNC who previously claimed T & B was working solely on their behalf.

At the very least, Mr. Thorp owes the community a detailed explanation as to how and why this happened.

It's interesting to read about an NC State econonics professor's analysis.  I'm wondering what UNC economics faculty members think.  (Not that econonists are all that practical all the time, but we do need a diversity of expert views.)

 Even more to the point perhaps:  what is the opinion of the Dept. of City and Regional Planning?  One should not expect an instant answer(s).  But should they not be charged with providing some analyses here?  Ironicially and unfortunately, local experts are often not accorded the same respect as ones from out of town, even when the local experts are more qualified.  Something about human nature and not being hard to get.  Let's get over that and involve our real experts.  They are not all just ivory tower, unpractical people.  But they probably have enough sense to keep their mouths shut, unless they are asked and brought in in a reasonable way.  Given their intimate and far reaching involvement with helping conceive and plan Carolina North, there is little doubt that they will be of equal help with considering the airport and accompanying issues.

As with many other aspects of this process, these additional analyses would seem to have been worth seeking before the legislation.  However, the timing and approach - quickly, with input only from advocates of general aviation - are consistent with history.

Yes, the legislation is done , but as the saying goes, there's many a slip twixt cup and lip.  There are things in the legislation that no doubt got missed, and there are many facets that it is certain have not been investigated, and could come back to bite those who would build something far more extensive than a simple, small airport.   But do we have people with time and wherewithal to dig into all that?  Probably not. 

 In addition, the legislation could yet be changed.  There are going to be a lot of roadblocks put up by local people who have been left out of the process (e.g. the county commissioners), and that will slow things down quite a bit, giving time to those with expertise to be brought in.  And let's not forget that many of these professors have tenure, meaning that they cannot be fired for speaking up!

From your lips to God's ears, although I don't know where that leaves the cup.

Delay might be OC's salvation here, but not if the Flying Businessmen hold Carolina North hostage to the opening of an airport other than the RDU alternative. Until ground is broken for the RDU AHEC facility, both rural OC and HWA neighbors remain vulnerable to the first-order (OC airport) or second-order (keep and expand HWA) priorities of the general aviation activists.

Reactions to it? It seems to buy into the idea that the airport is ultimately an asset - just not as demonstrated in the T&B report - and the only problem with it is the current opacity in process. Ergo, involve the community, be more open and honest, and all will be well.

Your repeated question asking just what the mission, goal, justification is for the airport, Tony, seems to strike right at the heart of this whole endeavor. Problem is, no one in authority or power is actually asking it. The only answer seems to be, "because we want one."

I'm planning on attending the meeting today at White Cross (7PM at the White Rec center).  Anyone else going to be there?

John Rees

Here are some things to ponder/consider:

1.  Hone in on whether the university and community are being well-served by Mr. Kevin Fitzgerald, who was quoted in the Independent as follows:

"FitzGerald does acknowledge that the county had no input into the bill's language. Asked if the county should have been involved, given that the airport will be a county facility, FitzGerald expresses doubt. "I don't necessarily see why.' " (see  One can only have a sense of wonderment at such an unprofessional attitude, which really has no place here.

 2.  Somebody doing a Freedom of Information Act Request of all the powers that be regarding their past and current airport communications.  Information is power.  Get it while you can and while it might could make a difference.  Here is a bit about that:  Here's more, with some links to some examples:  One could pretty much cut and paste, and then adapt some examples, but the first reference above has some good stuff about making the request clear enough so as to give the person assembling the information a break.  I don't know if there's a way to make such a request an on-going proposition, but if that is possible, it could help.  This whole process should be 100% transparent, and those running this operation need to accede to that.

Speakers include:

 Local landowners

Elaine Chiosso, Director of the Haw River Assembly - on the threat an airport would pose to the Haw River watershed & Jordan lake

Mitch Renkow, N.C. State economist - on the shoddy economic benfits report funded by UNC in collusion with local big business interests

Bernadette Pelissier, our new Orange County Commissioner

Ellie Kinnaird, our State Senator

Hope you can make it.


I'm not sure what the purpose of this meeting is, but perhaps it will help focus people on realistic approaches, as opposed to unrealistic ones, to figuring out what people want and how to get it.  So long as things are planned according to regulations (e.g. water quality/stormwater, etc. requirements), there is not much hope in using environmental factors to affect the outcome.  It seems to me that the economic/policital realm will be far more effective than talking about quality of life or property values or environmental decay. 

 Airports are everywhere, and so it will be possible to turn to examples of how they have been developed to ameliorate negative impacts, while having upside potential.  What makes sense, as I've argued previously, is rigorous comparisons with other, similar areas, including such factors as having an RDU nearby.

 And try to be clear:  do people want no airport, or would they settle for a replacement for Horace Williams that is the same in size and scope?  A small airport like that might be fine by some people, and it might be ultimately something to negotiate for..but there is still a lot to consider in terms of its implications and effects.  

I can't speak for the folks in the White cross area but, Orange County Voices is opposed to any airport in Orange County including Horace Williams which is scheduled to close in the future.

also opposes an airport anywhere in the county. It's a bad decision by UNC  a burden to be shared collectively by all Orange County residents, and an insult to Orange County's planning & vision  no matter where they try to shoehorn it in. 



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