Save Horace Williams Airport

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Horace Williams Airport (HWA) is an asset to the University of North Carolina System, Chapel Hill, and the aviation community. We need a general aviation airport that is convenient to this part of the Triangle region. Professors from UNC and elsewhere, along with pilots of other professions, have flown into and out of HWA for business with major companies, governments, universities, research institutions, and other national organizations. Pilots based at HWA have flown numerous patients to and from UNC hospitals and have introduced over 4,000 kids to aviation by flying them for free at HWA through the Experimental Aviation Association’s “Young Eagle” program. Sports coaches have flown out of HWA on recruitment missions in the state and thousands of others have used HWA for recreational flights. Those flying into HWA to visit Chapel Hill benefit the local economy by renting cars, buying meals at restaurants, paying for parking, buying UNC merchandise or goods from other stores, staying at hotels, purchasing tickets for UNC sports games, and more. HWA is the only airport in the Triangle region that can serve the local economy; its very existence shows that an airport is needed in Chapel Hill. 

However, today, there have been serious attempts to close Horace Williams Airport and to remove it from the UNC system, Chapel Hill, and the aviation community.

UNC-Chapel Hill's reasons for this attempt to close HWA mostly concern finances. Although this is a valid concern, any financial loss connected to HWA is due to UNC's deliberate acts and policies that prevent profit. The number of tenants has been frozen at less than a third of its capacity, and its ability to serve the community has been heavily restricted due to regulations implemented by UNC. There is much demand to base aircraft at HWA; lifting the freeze has been calculated to be profitable. The cost of repairing the runway is minimal compared to UNC’s other projects. This current set of asphalt has lasted 28 years, so it’s a good investment; any improvement that will enhance the experience for pilots and passengers will benefit UNC’s reputation. Removing the shackles from HWA will allow it to be a profitable asset to the community.

Horace Williams Airport holds a rich history that shows how much of an asset it can be. Over 18,000 people received Navy flight training at its facilities during WWII including George H.W. Bush, Gerald Ford, and 180 UNC students. Thousands more trained with the Chapel Hill Flying Club. In 1962, Warren Wheeler was denied at every airport in the region because of his race, except for HWA. There, he gave flight instruction to UNC students and later created Wheeler Airlines, the first black-owned airline in the USA. HWA was also an incredibly convenient base for AHEC’s (Area Health Education Center) operations which benefited the state and UNC, as numerous doctors prefer to fly out of HWA instead of RDU. When operated at its full potential, as it was for 60+ years of its 78-year life, Horace Williams Airport was and can continue to be a valuable resource to UNC, the town of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and the country.

It would be a poor decision for the University of North Carolina to remove itself from the long list of prestigious academic centers that own an airport. The aviation industry is experiencing an enormous pilot shortage that will last over the next decade or more. UNC’s Carolina General Aviation is a diverse student community of pilots and aviation enthusiasts, potentially feeding the aviation industry in the future. Having 250+ members proves that a student interest in aviation exists on campus, and Carolina General Aviation uses Horace Williams Airport for flying events to help spur an aviation passion in students. Numerous club members have made positive remarks about the experience, HWA’s convenience to campus, and the prospect of using it for future events. With a rapidly-growing student aviation club, a local airport, and a pilot shortage, there is an incredible opportunity for HWA to play a beneficial role in reducing the future pilot shortage.

The UNC Board of Trustees approved the closure of Horace Williams Airport in November 2017. However, this decision still has the opportunity to be reversed, keeping HWA alive. Horace Williams Airport deserves to be cherished and rejuvenated, not shut down. By signing this petition, you can help show your support of Horace Williams Airport, advocating that management allow it to be the asset to UNC, Chapel Hill, and the aviation community that it can be.


For more information about the history of Horace Williams Airport, there is a video documentary available for streaming on YouTube:

Picture: Horace Williams Airport thriving in the late 1980s

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