Hangar Due Structural Study

Published 3:15 pm Thursday, February 20, 2014

FARMVILLE — The Town of Farmville won’t simply wing it when it comes to the future of the oldest municipal hangar at the Farmville Regional Airport, according to Town Manager Gerald Spates.

Questions about the hangar’s fate had been raised by concerned pilots during Town Council’s February meeting. Town officials seem to be leaning toward demolishing the structure but say an independent analysis will be performed and indicate any lost hangar space would be replaced.

“I am not a resident of town. I live in Buckingham. But I am a hangar owner over at the airport,” Morgan Dunnavant told council members during the public comment portion of the meeting. “I understand, or there’s a rumor, that the Town is considering tearing down, destroying the municipal hangar…and no plan to replace it. That will displace six aircraft…

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“I believe the loss of the hangar would be an extreme disservice to the community as a whole,” Dunnavant said, as several other pilots with planes at the airport sat and listened. “At least have a plan in place to replace it before proceeding with its destruction. And prior to any plan to destroy it I thoroughly suggest having a professional review it.”

When asked about the double hangar, Spates told The Herald this week that Town officials have not made up their mind about its fate and that an expert will inspect the structure and advise the Town on the most appropriate next step.

The hangar, which bears the words “Farmville Municipal Airport” in large blue faded letters, was originally built at, and later moved from, the Town’s airport when pilots were taking off and landing on a runway near the former Weavexx building at the Prince Edward County industrial park off West Third Street.

“No decision’s been made but I think we’re looking at it’s a lot of expense. The building was moved from the old airport back in the 60s and we’re looking at having to spend a lot of money on the roof and different things. Of course, everybody’s got their opinions but I’m going to get a structural engineer to look at it,” Spates said.

The right side of the double hangar has no door and airplanes kept there are exposed, in varying degrees depending upon where they are parked, to the elements.

“The door blew off and the insurance company’s working toward replacing it but everybody says there’s nothing to attach the door to,” the town manager said. “The doors have always been a problem. We’ve spent a fortune over the years on those doors.”

Nor is there any state money, according to Spates, to renovate and repair the structure.

Another problem with the hangar, he believes, is “if somebody in the back (of the hangar) wants to get their plane out there’s a chance you could damage somebody’s plane moving them back and forth.”

And, Spates added in the Town’s defense, “we’re not trying to do something arbitrarily. We’re trying to make sure…We’ve got a couple of insurance claims already with debris and stuff that’s fallen. The doors blew in and damaged several airplanes. I don’t think the Town should be subjected to the liability from that big hangar.”

Asked what the Town would do if the hangar is indeed torn down, Spates replied, “We would probably do something like T hangars where people would rent them.”

T hangars are metal, considered more economical than standard hangars, and offer individual T-shaped, or plane-shaped, spaces for the storage of small private aircraft.

But for pilots—who were not told during the meeting about either the planned structural analysis or the probability of T hangar replacements—the bird nest in hand for aircraft beats losing the shelter and wondering what might be in the bush.

“Any structure is better than no structure,” Dunnavant told town council. “Granted, it is lacking in some maintenance but it is still a structure that safely houses the aircraft there now.”

And, Dunnavant stressed, “airports are a very beneficial infrastructure item for communities. Even though it’s not in the forefront of the public eye the airport provides a very important economic boost, not just to Farmville but the community as a whole and anything ya’ll could see fit to do to help us, the pilot population, improve our airport and help it thrive we would greatly appreciate it.”

Prior to the February 12 meeting, town council had not discussed the airport or the hangar, as part of the 2014-15 budget process, in open session at either a work session or a regular monthly meeting.