RWI refueling for takeoff: Airport closed while runway, taxiways repaved

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The Rocky Mount-Wilson Regional Airport is closed for 90 days while five major renovation and expansion projects are underway.

Allega is the prime contractor handling the airport’s $14.8 million runway and taxiway rehabilitation project.

The asphalt for the airport’s aging, 7,100-foot runway has been milled to full depth and will be completely repaved using a temporary asphalt plant that has been constructed at the airport.

Dion Viventi, who was appointed managing director of the RWI airport in 2016, said funding for the $14.8 million pavement rehabilitation project was a collaborative effort between federal, state and local governments.

The FAA has contributed $6 million in apportionment funding, $3.8 million in discretionary funding and $3.3 million from the N.C. Department of Transportation. The cities of Wilson and Rocky Mount each contributed $422,916, and Wilson, Nash and Edgecombe counties committed to spend $211,458 each toward the project.

Viventi said Wilson-based PLT Constuction Co. Inc. has begun a $3.5 million T-hangar and taxilane improvement project that will accommodate 23 additional aircraft.

“There is a lot of inquiry into this airport,” Viventi said. “We turn prospective clients away every day because we don’t have hangar space for them. There is just only so much room for them here now.”

Currently, the airport has 25 aircraft based at the field, including 16 single-engine airplanes, three multi-engine airplanes, three jet airplanes and three helicopters. The airport has an average of 82 operations a day, with 65% being transient general aviation, 29% being local general aviation, 4% air taxi and 2% military.

“Your biggest employers in this county fly out of here on a weekly basis,” Viventi said.

Viventi said $340,000 has been awarded for an underground fuel farm mitigation project and $300,000 awarded for a self-serve fuel farm project.

“There is an underground fuel farm that has been there since 1969 and we are digging that up and removing and replacing that with a brand new above-ground fuel farm,” Viventi said.

Viventi said a $900,000 taxiway lighting and sign upgrade was recently completed at the airfield, which was established in 1969.

“We are in the middle of a transition plan to make the airport self-sustaining,” Viventi said.

Viventi said as part of the transition plan, the goals are to complete the airport strategic master plan, encourage local support, implement terminal area development, complete friendly land inquisition of contiguous property, promote economic development, increase operations and based aircraft, promote fuel sales through low cost and volume and create flight school cooperatives with local community colleges.

Part of that plan calls for reducing subsidies from local governments.

“We receive subsidies from three counties and two cities every year to help pay the bills,” Viventi said. “Our goal is to reduce the amount of money that they pay in subsidies and make the airport self-sustaining.”

Viventi said at the end of the construction and transition period, he hopes to increase the number of aircraft based at RWI.

“I would like to triple the number of based aircraft here,” Viventi said. “We will probably double it by the time we are finished with the T-hangar project.”

The 504-acre airport’s geographic location makes it advantageous not only to people in eastern and central North Carolina, but those on the East Coast.

“We are halfway down the mid-Atlantic seaboard and it is a great fueling stopover point for aircraft traveling from the upper northeast to Florida through this eastern corridor. This is the busiest corridor in the world for aviation traffic,” Viventi said.”We are located between U.S. 64 and 264 and I-95. Geographically, it’s an important location, strategically for logistics. Between the mid-Atlantic stopover point and the logistics location, it is a very attractive airport in the future for industry and corporations who are interested in basing their location in this region. They have an airport in this ideal location.”

Viventi said the airport has $69.7 million in economic output affecting 450 jobs, $2.5.9 million in personal income from workers in those jobs and $2.9 million in state and local tax revenue. The airport has 6.9 million in total capital assets.

The runway is closed until July 25 with total project completion expected by Dec.12.