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BYH: To the City of Greenville, NC. Your town is a boring town, filled with drunks(bars), nothing else to do. Crimes in...

PGV director optimistic about airport's future

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Kim W. (Bill) Hopper, executive director at Pitt-Greenville Airport, poses near the runway on March 7, 2019. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Pitt-Greenville Airport Authority’s new Executive Director, Kim W. (Bill) Hopper said his first priority is learning more about the character and personality of the small regional airport.

“I want to get to know Pitt-Greenville Airport; I mean really get to know it,” he said.

Hopper replaced former executive director, Betty Stansbury who took over at PGV in July 2016 and recently moved back home to her native Oregon to take a position as the director for The Oregon Department of Aviation.

During Stansbury’s tenure, the airport made several significant enhancements including adding an additional flight time to its daily offerings and upgrading to an all-jet service schedule.

The primary runway was resurfaced at a cost of $10 million and new lights were installed at a cost of $3 million — initiatives which not only reduce energy consumption by 75 percent each year, but also are expected to extend the life of the runways by 35 percent. And a machine was installed in the terminal that allows passengers who park at the airport to pay with their debit or credit card, rather than at an exit booth. That upgrade cost about $200,000, officials said.

Despite all of the improvements, Hopper still has his work cut out for him. He will be responsible for overseeing the airport’s 20-year master plan, facilitating PGV’s ability to service commercial airlines and drafting grant requests to receive funds for the necessary improvements to support growth in general aviation.

But Hopper said he is up to the challenge.

He brings more than 30 years of airport operations management experience, having previously served as director of aviation at Elmira-Corning Regional Airport in Horseheads, N.Y., where he managed multi-million-dollar terminal and taxiway projects while simultaneously increasing commercial carrier service, a news release stated.

Hopper began his aviation career as an air traffic controller with the United States Marine Corps at MCAS New River in 1982, and is an accredited airport executive in the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), according to the release. Additionally, he has served on the AAAE Board of Directors, as well as holding leadership positions in regional chapters of the AAAE and other aviation management associations.

The PGV Airport Authority Board was unanimous in its decision to offer the executive director position to Hopper after conducting a nationwide search and interviewing numerous candidates.

“Bill was selected from a large qualified candidate pool not only because of his excellent credentials and technical expertise, but also his experience in successfully leading other similar airports through some of the same challenges and opportunities facing PGV,” said Eric Clark, chairman of the airport authority board.

“His successful recruitment of additional commercial air service carriers while also diversifying and expanding non-aeronautical revenue streams demonstrated significant capability in two of the highest-priority areas for the board,” Clark said.

Hopper is no stranger to eastern North Carolina.

“I was stationed down here when I was in the Marines,” he said. “This is a return to eastern North Carolina for me and I’m very excited and very much looking forward to working with the airport authority, the staff and the community.”

Hopper said he hopes to expand existing air service.

“There’s a lot of potential and I see this as a growing area,” he said. “The air service needs are not all the way met and I pretty much look forward to trying to see what we can do there.”

Hopper said that as an airport director, he will do a bit of everything.

“You’ve got a lot of facilities that you have to oversee and maintain,” he said. “You have activity and there’s also where you have community outreach.You need to do quite a bit of that. You’re the marketing and PR person, you do it all.

“It’s a great job; there’s challenges every day,” Hopper said. “I’ve got many years of experience but it’s a new experience here.”

Pitt-Greenville Airport offers general aviation services along with limited commercial airline service. Currently, the airport’s sole domestic carrier is American Airlines which has been providing services for 30 years. Recruiting other carriers has been a challenge.

PGV faces competition from other regional airports including Coastal Carolina Regional Airport in New Bern, Albert J. Ellis Aiport in Jacksonville and larger airports like Norfolk International Airport and Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

American only offers flights to its hub at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, where passengers can catch connecting flights. Officials estimate that between 150-175 passengers fly out of Greenville each day.

Hopper said he is exploring possibilities to change this.

“We’ll take a look at,” he said. “It can be just as harmful to overbuild things as it is to not build them at all. We want to make sure that you take a look at what is really a good fit and then try to pursue it.

“Air service development is a long process; it’s not something you do overnight,” Hopper said. “You talk with the airlines and a lot of times what you’re looking for can change because the airline industry is constantly evolving. You find what you need. I would like to get more opportunities for people that want to fly in and out of Pitt-Greenville Airport.”

Hopper said he will focus on completing existing construction projects and exploring development of hangars to serve those looking to base their airplane in Greenville.

“We’ve got a lot of construction projects coming down the pike,” he said. “I need to really dig into those because we’ve got FAA grant applications we need to get out. There’s a lot of work to be done. There is a runway that is a bit tired. It’s runway 826, the crosswind runway and we’re working to see about getting that one rehabilitated. That may be a year or two down the road but definitely a runway that needs work.”

Hopper said the airport has a waiting list for aircraft that want to base there.

“I’d like to see if we could develop some more hangars and get some more airplanes parking here,” he said. “Aircraft basing here are aircraft that buy fuel here, that pay rent and that use the local area.”

For now, Hopper is settling in and said he looks forward to getting to know the Greenville community and developing Pitt-Greenville Airport into an asset that can be enjoyed by all.

“I’m very excited to be here,” he said. “I see a lot of potential at this airport I want look into that potential and see where we can develop it and provide the best services possible to this community.”

Contact Tyler Stocks at tstocks@reflector.com or 252-329-9566.

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