AIRPORT

Smith Reynolds Airport warehouse in 1960. The airport opened in 1927 and was renamed Smith Reynolds Airport in 1942.

The state Senate approved legislation Wednesday that would designate Winston-Salem’s Smith Reynolds Airport as a legacy airport.

However, upon further review by Sen. Tom McInnis, R-Moore, the language in House Bill 694 allows for an additional six North Carolina airports to qualify.

McInnis said that as he reviewed HB694, he determined that also qualifying are: Raleigh-Durham International; Pitt-Greenville; Wilmington International; Laurinburg-Maxton; Moore County; and Rocky Mount-Wilson Regional.

With the 115-0 vote, the bill has been sent to Gov. Roy Cooper for his signature.

The initial version of the legislation, a bipartisan bill sponsored by three Forsyth County legislators, cleared the N.C. House in May 2019 by a 114-0 vote.

The bill sat in the Senate Rules and Operations Committee for more than 13 months before resurfacing this week.

The Senate voted 47-0 for the bill. Because an amendment submitted by McInnis was approved, the House must concur with bill changes before HB694 can be sent to Gov. Roy Cooper.

HB694 would allow the state Transportation Department’s Aviation division to classify as a legacy airport any facility that meets the following requirements:

  • Owned and operated by a county; established as an airport and has been in continuous operation since at least 1944.

According to the city of Winston-Salem, Miller Municipal Field opened in 1927. It was renamed Smith Reynolds Airport in 1942 after the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation gave money to the airport. Z. Smith Reynolds, the younger son of tobacco magnate R.J. Reynolds, was an avid amateur aviator early in the 20th century.

  • Contains a terminal building that was built and has been in continuous operation since at least 1944.
  • Has an actively used runway that is at least 6,500 feet long.
  • And has contributed significantly to the development of aviation in North Carolina.

The amendment added two more qualifications for legacy designation: allowing a military airport facility to qualify if built before 1945 and removes the continuous operation requirement.

Rep. Debra Conrad, R-Forsyth, and a primary co-sponsor, said the legacy designation would be in sync with the state’s First in Flight branding.

“The airport served as an Army Air Corps training facility,” she said.

“The airport and Winston-Salem gave birth to a legacy carrier, which was Piedmont Airlines, so we definitely qualify as an airport that has contributed significantly to the development of aviation in the state.

“Of course, Piedmont merged with USAirways, which was folded into American,” Conrad said.

She said that having a legacy designation “could be useful in branding and in economic-development activities.”

The goal is to have the airport prepared should money become available for legacy airports in a proposed federal infrastructure bill, which could reach up to $2 trillion in funding.

“While most federal dollars go to international airports, legacy airports in our state could try to leverage that status to obtain funds to advance the utilization of these important assets in our state,” Conrad said. “We would be able to use legacy in the branding and marketing of Smith Reynolds.”

The legacy designation could make the airport more attractive to aviation tenants or low-fare airline carriers, supporters say.

“We’re trying to put North Carolina out on the curve on this nationally,” Conrad said. “We would have to see where this takes us and try to better utilize our assets.”

rcraver@wsjournal.com

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