Governor to attend airport unveiling

WINNSBORO – It was so dark, a state plane carrying S.C. Department of Commerce Director Bobby Hitt couldn’t land at the Fairfield County Airport.

Not exactly the impression Fairfield County, a county hungry to land new industry, wanted to leave.

Now when Hitt and his boss, Gov. Henry McMaster, potentially return in a few weeks for a ribbon cutting on the refurbished airport, the sky and runway beneath it will be much friendlier.

The Fairfield County Airport will unveil its new look during a ribbon cutting ceremony scheduled for Aug. 20. Airport Director Denise Bryan made the announcement at Monday night’s County Council meeting.

“Everybody had a part in this project,” Bryan told council members. “For your investment and support of this community, I applaud you.”

Work began in October 2017 and reached substantial completion in late June.

The Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, picked up 90 percent of the tab of the $780,000 total cost, spending $702,000.

Fairfield County and the state each pitched in with 5 percent, leaving their portions at $39,000 each, Bryan said.

“We got a $780,000 project done at our county airport for $39,000,” she said. “That’s a spectacular investment and I can’t wait to show you what we’ve got.”

Bryan invited all council members to attend the Aug. 20 event, which starts at 7 p.m. She said she plans to invite state lawmakers and the governor as well.

The airport upgrades have been a long time coming. Although signage and pads were refurbished, the absence of adequate lighting was the most pressing problem.

All lights have been replaced with LED lights, which are more energy efficient. They will also be protected by a series of conduits, which Bryan said would greatly increase their life expectancy.

During her presentation, Bryan noted poor lighting caused a state plane to be diverted.

“We had a state plane come in one night, and the [runway] lights wouldn’t even come on,” she said.

County Administrator Jason Taylor later noted that Hitt was among the passengers on board.

“I had to hear quite a bit about it [the lights] from him, so I’m glad they’re working now,” Taylor said. “It was not good.”

Council members were ecstatic to learn of the airport news, especially since the report followed a series of votes and presentations focusing on economic development.

“When I first came on [council], I went to the airport and saw the conditions,” Goins said. “So I’m excited about what I’m about to see very soon. Very excited about it.”

“I think it’s fantastic for our county to pay $39,000 and get almost $800,000 in value,” Councilman Dan Ruff added. “As an economic development deal, it’s outstanding. I compliment you on that.”


  1. GM Davis says

    Interesting story. I have frequently flown at Fairfield for the past 6 years (and regularly at night). While the lighting upgrade was probably worth doing, I should tell you that I never had any problem getting runway & taxiway lights to come on at night (the pilot remotely controls the airfield lighting using the airport radio frequency). And for people that may not know… those lights only mark the edges of the paved surfaces. The lights do not illuminate the runway surface – that is done by the landing lights on board the aircraft. Now, it is true that the runway lights and taxiway lights do help a great deal when trying to locate the runway at night, but they have little to do with it being “too dark to land”. The lighting update will likely be good for the long run as old lighting systems do wear out, and had Fairfield not taken advantage of the funding… it would have simply been spent in some other county. So, I think overall that it is a good thing… I just hope the reason was not as the article suggests (that the pilot of Mr. Hitt’s airplane couldn’t land in the dark). I’m not saying that they didn’t have a problem with the lights. I’m just saying that I never had any trouble. If they flew an instrument approach at night and in the weather, it is very understandable that they would not attempt a landing without runway lighting.

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