Lexington County’s Pelion Airport a Flight of Fancy

April 3, 2012

Inside Insight

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old airplaneConsultant recommendations for Lexington County’s Pelion Airport include extending the runway to enable it to handle heavier aircraft and allowing the sale of jet fuel, both of which would purportedly help boost the number of flights significantly. While a price tag hasn’t been compiled for proposed improvements, one is expected soon.

Sound familiar? It’s from Monday’s edition of The State newspaper. The same recommendations can also be found in a July 2003 State article that appeared shortly after Lexington County announced it was purchasing the small airport from the town of Pelion for $225,000.

According to the most recent article, Lexington County plans to extend the runway from 4,335 to 5,500 feet and make other renovations to attract business fliers.

“It’s the first step in a facelift that a study says is necessary to make the site a stopover for corporate aircraft,” The Sta

te reported.

“Virtually all work would be paid for by taxes on air travel,” it added.

Compare that with The State’s July 9, 2003, story:

“The runway should be extended from 4,300 to 5,500 feet and strengthened to handle heavier aircraft,” the publication reported. “A price tag for such improvements will be determined by fall.”

Not much has changed over the past nine years as the airport, which started out as a dragstrip in the 1970s, has languished, though more than $1 million in tax dollars has gone into the site.

Some Lexington County Council members, however, seem unfamiliar with the concept of throwing good (taxpayer) money after bad:

“I have my doubts about this thing,” Councilman Bobby Keisler of Red Bank said in the most recent story. “I’m crossing my fingers. It’s worth a gamble.”

Added Councilman Jim Kinard of Swansea: “We need to go ahead and make something out of the airport so it can be an asset. It’s time we did something.”

Oh, and then there’s the issue of competition. Columbia Metropolitan Airport is 12 miles to the north and Hami

lton-Owens Airport near downtown Columbia is 18 miles to the east. Some might say there are already plenty of options for those who want to fly in and out of the Midlands.

With nearly a decade of airport ownership under its belt and little to show for it, perhaps Lexington County would better serve its citizens by sticking to providing core services, such as education, police service and garbage pickup.