How national trends are both benefiting and challenging general aviation

How national trends are both benefiting and challenging general aviation

2022-07-25T15:32:28-04:00July 25th, 2022|Economy, Raleigh-Durham, Transportation|

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Writer: Liz Palmer

3 min read July 2022 opens in a new windowPilot shortages, exorbitant opens in a new windowfuel prices, supply chain disruptions and a migration of more affluent individuals and their businesses to the Triangle have made for a busy, interesting year for general aviation airports in North Carolina like the Raleigh Executive Jetport. 

Raleigh Executive Jetport’s Airport Director Robert Heuts told Invest: he is interested to see how the airport is affected going forward as corporate travel continues to flow in and airports such as Raleigh-Durham International’s main focus remains on commercial travel. “We’re in a great location,” he said. “As the region grows, we are going to see more affluent people come into the area. They can own airplanes, so we need to make sure we have the capacity to handle them. I think the same thing will happen at other airports that are similar to us.”

As the Triangle takes on that growth, though, Heuts has made it a priority to ensure that the airport can sustain it. Currently under construction is a new $5.3 million runway that will be adding water, sewer and providing ease of access to the airport’s south side, as well as an additional 12 box hangers, taxiway and charging pad for electric airplanes with intentions of an EV charger in the parking lot. 

Although electric planes still have a few years before being approved for mainstream transportation, Heuts’ goal is to make sure the Raleigh Executive Jetport is ready for them. “Electric engines are here to stay, especially with the price of gas,” he said. “The other thing that we might be seeing is urban taxis. All of these things have potential and I’m excited about them. The FAA has a lot of work to do to make sure that everything operates safely. When something goes up in the air, it’s their job to determine that it’s safe.” The project is anticipated to be completed by October 2022. 

Unsurprisingly, supply chain issues have been creating obstacles in completing the project. “Getting some materials for our $5.3 million project has been difficult,” he said. “All of these manufacturers are working on a just-in-time basis, and I think they’re having to change how they do business, especially compared to how they were doing it before. I don’t know how long this is going to last, but I’m tired of people using the pandemic as an excuse for delays. I think it’s actually a bigger issue, especially with gas prices as high as they are today. It works the same with airplane fuel: if there’s cheaper fuel in some other area, people will go there.”

As the airport continues to expand, Heuts is closely monitoring the labor shortage blighting the aviation industry. “Aviation is struggling because there are not enough workers,” he said. “Some flights are being canceled because airlines can’t find pilots to fly. We have to keep these challenges in mind as we work to recruit more people by doing things like partnering up with colleges to attract more students into aviation.” 

He is confident that the airport’s contributions to the region will continue to advance, citing NC State University’s economic impact study conducted every two years on the state’s airports. The opens in a new window“North Carolina: The State of Aviation” study reported that Raleigh Exec has a $62.7 million impact on the region and supports 490 jobs.