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As Dion Viventi stands at the edge of a construction site where bulldozers and excavators were preparing the foundation for 23 new T-hangars at the Rocky Mount-Wilson Regional Airport, he gets a phone call.
The caller asks the airport managing director if there’s a space to store a new airplane.
It is just the kind of call Viventi likes to get, and he’s receiving lots of similar requests daily.
“It is exciting because we have so many pilots and aviation companies that are interested in locating here,” Viventi said. “There never was room in the past to accommodate them, but now, because we are building the capacity to accommodate them, I am actually able to say ‘Yes, we have room for you.’”
The T-hangars are funded as part of a $3.5 million strategic transportation investment grant from the N.C. Department of Transportation. Wilson-based PLT Construction is currently performing the work.
“Feb. 15 is the current estimated completion date, although I honestly believe they will be they will have the project completed ahead of schedule at the rate they are going now,” Viventi said.
The airport is currently wrapping up a $14.8 million runway and taxiway rehabilitation project, part of which was to resurface its 7,100-foot runway.
Viventi said the airport is geographically ideal because of its location between Interstate 95, U.S. 64 and U.S. 264.
“We get a lot of interstate traffic through this area. Because of that, it is logistically appealing for transient aircraft to do cargo and freight operations here,” Viventi said.
East Coast travelers flying up and down the busiest air corridor in the country choose the airport to stop and get fuel.
“We got a lot of people who stop halfway from Florida to the northeast, and vice versa, stop here to get fuel,” Viventi said. “We draw them in with the low fuel prices, so we are seeing a lot more transient aircraft coming in and topping off their airplanes.”
“We sold almost 30,000 gallons of fuel this month,” Viventi said. “That’s three times what we were selling.”
The airport is getting a new $300,000 fuel farm to dispense Jet A fuel and aviation gas.
“The notice to proceed has been issued today to start work on the new self-serve fuel farm, two 8,000-gallon tanks, one Jet A and one AV gas, that pilots can pull up to 24/7 and top off their aircraft with a computerized kiosk just like you do at the gas station,” Viventi said.
The airport is adding a new 20,000-gallon Jet A fuel tank to increase the volume of fuel on hand.
Viventi said the airport just entered a five-year contract to sell Shell aviation fuels.
“We are a Shell-branded partner, which means we sell exclusive Shell aviation fuels through Titan Aviation Fuels out of New Bern and they help us with marketing and advertising and branding,” Viventi said.
As part of the contract, Shell provided two brand-new aviation fueling trucks, a 3,000 gallon Jet A refueler and a 1,000-gallon aviation gas refueler.
“We are very excited about our new relationship with them,” Viventi said.
To make way for the new T-hangars, the airport had to raze a 30-by-40-foot storage unit. A 50-by-50-foot storage building to be used primarily for ground service equipment will replace it.
“We will also be able to accommodate air freight cargo storage overnight,” Viventi said. “We can receive a 50-foot semi tractor-trailer in the building and offload all of the skids and pallets into the storage building so it can be pre-positioned for the aircraft when the aircraft arrives to load it up with our forklift.”
Viventi said it’s potentially a large monetary savings for the companies sending the freight because the aircraft, some of which cost $12,000 per hour to operate, don’t have to wait for the truck.
Viventi said the airport just completed a $900,000 taxiway lighting and sign upgrade.
New lines on the runway have recently been completed and taxiways and apron lines are being adjusted currently.
The stop line in front of the terminal is being repositioned for the extra traffic.
“They’ve got bigger planes coming in now,” said Jim Allega of Allega Companies, which is contracted to repave the runway. “Dion’s got this place humping.”
The $14.8 million in runway renovations was funded with $9.8 million from the Federal Aviation Administration and $3.3 million from the N.C. Department of Transportation with local matches, including $422,916 from both Rocky Mount and Wilson and $211,458 each coming from Edgecombe, Nash and Wilson counties.
The airport is on 504 acres owned by the Rocky Mount-Wilson Airport Authority in Nash County just north of the Wilson County line.
Viventi told the Wilson Rotary Club that Nash County has not pursued a plan to buy out the airport’s other county government and municipal partners. Nash County Board of Commissioners Chairman Robbie Davis floated the prospect of a buyout in July.
“There has been a lot of that political stuff going on for a long time,” Viventi said. “I wouldn’t put anything into that. The airport is too big to buy out. It’s just way too expensive. I don’t think anyone would want to do that.”