Airport renaming proposed

Published 9:54 pm Friday, February 15, 2019

Franklin’s City Council voted unanimously on Jan. 28 to approve plans to rename the Franklin Municipal Airport.

The proposed new name is the Franklin Regional Airport. The city’s Airport Advisory Board recommended the name change at its meeting on Sept. 5, 2018, citing the need to rebrand the airport as a regional asset that serves not only Franklin but also Isle of Wight and Southampton counties.

With the council resolution passed, the matter will now go before the Federal Aviation Administration and the Virginia Department of Aviation. Over the next few weeks, each agency will review the request and begin the process of updating FAA publications, Department of Aviation licenses and other signage, letterhead and advertising to reflect the new name.

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According to an email from Albert Burckard, the citizens of Isle of Wight County advocate the name “Southside Regional Airport” instead, since the airport is actually located in the county, just outside the town limits of Franklin.

The Southside name “would be more acceptable to all concerned since this name includes the entire area served by this airport and does not exclude the municipality in which the facility is located or other areas that this airport serves,” Burckard wrote. “Economic development in our region would be greatly enhanced by the diversity of an inclusive name for our airport.”

Burckard said he was circulating a petition that he hopes to present to the Virginia Aviation Board.

Updating the sign for the airport, located at the intersection of Carrsville Highway and John Beverly Rose Drive, is estimated to cost the city approximately $2,400, according to Airport Manager Jimmy Gray. He described this cost as a “ballpark price” that would probably be reduced through the competitive quoting process the city will use.

The current sign lists “John Beverly Rose Field” beneath “Franklin Municipal Airport,” honoring the service of a Carrsville resident and Army helicopter pilot who was killed in a helicopter crash on June 29, 1964, at Fort Belvoir. Gray was uncertain whether the new sign for the “Franklin Regional Airport” would still list a separate name for the field, as FAA and Department of Aviation publications will only list one official name. However, he said plans are in the works to construct a memorial to Rose near the terminal building.

The Virginia Department of Aviation defines Franklin’s airport as a general aviation commercial airport, meaning it caters primarily to private aircraft, military aircraft (mostly helicopters), and corporate aircraft. Corporate aircraft, Gray said, may or may not include jets, and refers to business trips in and out of the airport.

“A lot more goes on here than people realize,” he said, explaining that the airport receives a fairly regular amount of corporate traffic, and that the runway has been designed to accommodate most sizes of corporate planes.

The airport handles roughly 12,000 operations per year, Gray said, an operation being either a takeoff or a landing occurring from the hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. This figure does not include nighttime traffic.

Corporate traffic that flies in and out of Franklin regularly includes a company that supplies doctors at Southampton Memorial Hospital, contractors for International Paper, suppliers of local businesses such as Love’s Truck Stop, and even a federal prison in Winton, N.C., that uses the airport to transport inmates.

The airport’s origins date to the 1930s when the Great Depression-era Congressional Conservation Corps constructed a single dirt runway on the site. During World War II, the Navy took over the administration of the airport, expanding it and renaming it Navy Auxiliary Air Station Franklin. After the war, the Navy turned the airport over to what was then the town of Franklin. In the 1980s, the city assumed total control and made the airport a city operation.