Tag: Conway Airport

Horry County Department of Airports Inconsistencies

Looking at the Horry County Department of Airports through the years, a conclusion can be drawn that businesses operating at the various airports are treated differently.

It’s almost as if winners and losers are chosen by airport officials based on no apparent criteria.

Such an attitude is contradictory to instructions from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Accepting FAA grant money (of which Horry County receives millions every year) and free land conveyance of former Air Force property brings with it certain requirements of and assurances from the county. The most important of these is that the airports and their facilities must be available for public use in a non-discriminatory manner.

However, after discouraging Hooters Air from renting hangar space at Myrtle Beach International Airport by insisting on rental of $5 per sq. ft., the Horry County Department of Airports rented the same hangars to AvCraft for $2 per sq. ft.

That was only the beginning rent. Over a 10 year period the airport department kept reducing rent , in an attempt to keep AvCraft in business, until the company finally went belly up.

The Conway airport was home to the North American Institute of Aviation. The school did well until the late 1990’s when enrollment started to decline.

Local businessman Benjamin Creel bought the school at that point, but its losses continued to mount.

Horry County General Aviation Woes in Conway

General aviation at the Conway Airport is another area in which the Horry County Department of Airports has missed the boat.

The county’s three general aviation airports, Conway, North Myrtle Beach and Loris, were a topic of specific discussion at Horry County Council’s budget retreat last spring because of the continuing deficit they generate.

Conway airport is an interesting study in what is wrong with general aviation in Horry County.

The North American Institute of Aviation relocated from Hammonton, NJ to Conway in 1978 in the same time period that Horry County government was instituting the recently passed home rule for county government.

For the next 20 years, Horry County government didn’t have worries about the Conway airport as the school thrived through close connections with the Scandinavian countries of Europe. The school paid rent to the county for the facilities it used and also was the Fixed Base Operator for Conway airport, although sources say the FBO was run to basically support the school.

In the late 1990’s NAIA enrollment began to decline because of a saturation point being reached in the number of Scandinavian pilots and new European Union laws that did not automatically accept U.S. Federal Aviation Administration certification of the pilots that trained here.

Horry County General Aviation Problems

An email making its way around the county highlights continuing problems with general aviation at the Horry County Department of Airports.

Discussions about general aviation were taken up during the Horry County Council March 2015 budget retreat. It was mentioned that the county’s general aviation operations were running approximately $400,000 in the red.

There is a general aviation terminal at Myrtle Beach International Airport and general aviation airports in North Myrtle Beach, Conway and Loris.

At the time of the budget retreat, GSD wrote that the problem was the county, and specifically Horry County Department of Airports, has neither a real business plan nor any idea how to develop one.

That’s a main reason the International Technology and Aerospace Park (ITAP) at Myrtle Beach International remains nothing but bare grass and why the nearly 200 acres of county land surrounding Grand Strand Airport in North Myrtle Beach has no aviation related businesses located there.

This was reiterated in the email, which was sent by a long time aviation business operating in the county, “I would tell you that you need someone in this job that understands aviation, how to promote it and educate the public on the benefits derived from it. Above all, a complete change of attitude on how best to attract good solid business people at these facilities to service the aviation community. Only then will these four airports become productive and useful to the county.”