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Lee County Airport Hosts Fly-In

The airport in Lee County, Va., is farther west than the entire state of West Virginia.  In fact, it’s farther west than Detroit, Mich.!  So, the Lee County Airport hosted a fly-in Saturday to attract public attention and to showcase itself to the business community.

Board of Supervisors Vice-Chairman Larry Mosley said the airport already has several attractive features.

“We’ve got a 5,000-foot runway and great facilities here, and it’s just not used enough,” Mosley said. “We’re trying to get a fixed base operator, and this is as nice a facility as any of its kind in the area.”

The airport’s potential showed in several pilots and aircraft visiting from out of the area and providing an airshow of sorts for the public. 

As several visitors took advantage of the fly-in to walk around visiting aircraft, Supervisor Sidney Kolb watched and said that kind of activity highlights other reasons to expand fuel options at the airport.

“The people I talk to, including a lot of businesspeople, believe that you have to have a good airport in order to have a vibrant community and economy,” Kolb said.

While U.S. Route 58 runs through Lee County, Kolb said major interstates are still some distance for economic development prospects to visit the area.

“Tucked in the way we are, we really need an airport to bridge that distance,” Kolb said. “We’re also about 50 miles from the nearest Level One trauma center, and it costs lives not to be able to get patients out of here quickly.”

Lora Woods with the Lee County Farm Bureau said more potential stood out with the arrival of a medical service helicopter from Hazard, KY.

“The Farm Bureau part of this event is to try to get Air Evac housed at a location here at the airport,” said Woods, “beginning with getting jet A fuel here.”

Woods said county officials – including the Lee County Economic Development Authority – are working on grant applications through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Virginia Department of Aviation to acquire $117,000 toward buying and installing a jet A fuel tank and pump system.

 “If we can get that, we want to ask the Board of Supervisors for help toward the remainder and, if we have to, hold fundraisers to get the rest,” Woods said.  “If we can supply the fuel needed for the helicopters, we could also try to set up a hangar for their helicopters and a doublewide or even a log home for their crews to stay over here.”

Richard Johnson, executive director for the county’s Economic Development Authority, said the airport’s location, scenic view and expansion potential can offer a strong boost to all kinds of economic development.

“We’re looking at the airport as a tourism boost and a business boost, because it’s definitely one of the best and most underutilized assets we have,” Johnson said. “Between attracting Air Evac and Lincoln Memorial University expanding its facility in Lee County, we definitely have potential to develop the airport.”

“If we can get jet A fuel here, we’ll be able to house and support turboprop and turbine-powered aircraft like business jets and the medical helicopters services in this area use,” said Airport Commission Chairman Cody Wolford. “That means Air Evac and even the State Police MedFlight helicopters.”