Averett students take flight at Danville airport
Times are changing at Danville Regional Airport.
Averett University became the airport’s fixed-base operator in July 2021, replacing General Aviation Inc., a family-owned business which served as the FBO for more than 70 years.
The city of Danville owns the airport and its fueling facility. The city’s chosen FBO pays the city for the privilege of providing services like fuel sales, towing and airplane maintenance and charging users for those services.
Danville City Council members had been debating whether to select a new operator since 2017. In November 2019, council members approved a lease agreement allowing General Aviation to serve as the airport’s FBO until
June 30, 2021, when the university would take over.
General Aviation could not be reached for comment.
“City Council considered all input and … recommended that Averett University assume that role with a year-and-a-half transition,” says Marc Adelman, Danville’s director of transportation.
So far, the changeover to Averett has been smooth, Adelman says. In particular, he credits Averett with hiring John Earl, who has more than three decades of airline industry experience, as FBO manager. “He literally rolls out a red carpet every time a pilot comes onto the ramp,” Adelman says.
While the airport doesn’t serve large commercial airlines, it averages 52 takeoffs and landings per day for everything from trainer aircraft to business jets, Earl says.
Operating as AU Aviation Services, Averett University pays the city $1,500 a month to lease space at the airport, as well as a fuel-flow-fee of eight cents per gallon of fuel.
The university’s aeronautics program is the leading consumer of the airport’s services, says Travis Williams, Averett’s chief flight instructor.
Averett has provided flight training since 1981. Currently, 105 students are enrolled in Averett’s aeronautics program and the university hopes to grow the program to 200 students by 2026.
The aviation program “is in high demand,” says Don Aungst, Averett’s vice president and chief financial and operating officer. “And we don’t think that demand is going to diminish at all.” (The U.S. Department of Labor predicts there will be 14,500 annual openings for airline and commercial pilots through 2030.)
By becoming the airport’s FBO, Averett can now offer its aviation business students real-world experience. Three Averett aeronautics students currently work for AU Aviation Services as line technicians.
“Our aviation management students now have the opportunity to learn about the industry hands-on,” Williams says.