August 6, 2008

New Operators Expand Services at Airport in Ocean Isle Beach, N.C.

By Shannan Bowen, Star-News, Wilmington, N.C.

Aug. 6--OCEAN ISLE BEACH -- Tim Jackson and David Hill both had summer homes on the island here, but they found that the Ocean Isle Beach Airport lacked amenities to accommodate their small planes and flying schedules.

"They didn't have fuel or any services," said Hill, who lives in Greenville and owns a mattress store in Shallotte.

So, with the help of Jackson's co-worker, they dreamed up a proposal to create the Jackson-Hill Aviation Group and become a fixed-base operator for the airport. They presented their idea to town officials a couple years ago and began the planning process.

On Tuesday the two celebrated the success of their plan and the grand opening of Ocean Isle Beach Aviation with a ribbon-cutting and air show.

Besides offering fuel, the airport has two new hangars, a pilot's lounge, a bathroom and shower, high-speed Internet and Hertz car rentals.

"We're offering everything here you can get in Atlanta, Georgia," said Jackson, who lives in Fayetteville.

The airport, on N.C. 179 near Ocean Isle Beach Road, usually sees traffic from single-engine planes, but Jackson said he hopes larger planes and small jets will begin to use the airport and its services.

And he's sure that will mean more tourism for the area.

"This will significantly increase the kind of traffic we have in Ocean Isle Beach," Jackson said.

The company also plans to offer mechanical services, a flight school and charter flights.

Jackson and Hill were awarded a 20-year lease by the town.

"I think it's a big asset to this end of the county," Mayor Debbie Smith said at the grand opening event Tuesday.

"We wanted a fixed-based operator and fuel sales for a long time," she said.

It is the first time the airport has had a fixed-based operator, which is an improvement to what used to be a simple grass landing strip that Odell Williamson, developer of Ocean Isle Beach, built in the mid-1960s and later donated to the town.

His wife, Virginia Williamson, cut the ribbon Tuesday for Ocean Isle Beach Aviation.

She said her husband couldn't attend the event but was praying that the new operators would continue to improve the airport.

"He's happy to see it going forward," she said.


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