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Friday, December 9, 2011

City of Hickory takes over operations at Airport - River Hawk Aviation OUT

According to multiple sources, with the authorization of the Bankruptcy Judge in North Wilkesboro, as of midnight this morning, the City of Hickory has taken over the Fixed Based Operations at the Hickory Regional Airport. According to a source River Hawk Aviation has been cleaning out their offices. FBO Employees were informed a few days ago that the transfer was imminent.

According to sources, River Hawk has been in deep debt for some time and has had trouble meeting time requirements to pay their lease for many months. When listening to Hal Row's First Talk program, Hal spoke about an e-mail that had been sent to him by a lady named Laney. When Mayor Wright came on the radio that morning for the Monday Morning meeting with the Mayor, he gave the full name Laynay Humphrey. Laynay Humphrey who complained about the City building a Fuel farm that would compete against the existing FBO (River Hawk) is the wife of one of the brothers who are owners of the FBO. The Mayor had to have known who this e-mail was from. I did. Anyone who has paid attention to this mess did, but the general public didn't, because they have been kept in the dark and local media has been clueless about this issue and the problems at the airport. That is the sad state of what (little) we are getting from our local media.

Below is a presentation of Hal Row's show pertaining to this situation:

I will ask further questions to get to the bottom of this issue, but I have been told that information from the bankruptcy court shows River Hawk, with its one operation here in Hickory, to be several millions of dollars in debt. A Letter to the Editor written upon River Hawk's behalf appeared in the Hickory Daily Record just last Saturday. With legal proceedings winding down, the closed session minutes to meetings involving this issue should finally start to see the light of day.

The links below will tell the tale of this sordid mess with River Hawk obtaining a transfer of contract through the previous operator Profile Aviation. The City had every right to cancel the contract and went against Aviation Legal Counsel's wishes in granting the transfer of lease to a company that had previously operated a couple of other FBO's into bankruptcy. City Officials had been informed of several issues, but chose to ignore the warning and proceed ahead with the transfer of contract in late 2007.

Now four years later we are back to square one.  In taking over the airport can we be assured that it will be run competently? Will this reacquisition cost tax payers anything? With the harm to the viability of the airport that has been caused, will those who placed the city in this position admit fault? Have any lessons been learned here?

Mind Blowing - The City's Mismanagement of the Hickory Regional Airport - 9/30/2009

Do people even know? Hickory Airport Operators (River Hawk Aviation) in Bankruptcy - 6/18/2011

Will Hickory Airport Operators be forced to liquidate -- and why is no one talking about this?!?!? - 9/16/2011

Joe Brannock article in the Hickory Daily Record on December 9, 2011

Response to Riverhawk better able to handle general aviation

I take issue with Mr. Byer's Letter to the Editor (Riverhawk better able to handle general aviation; 12/3). While I agree in theory with much of what Mr. Byer says, I believe he is also misleading in the picture he paints regarding general avaition at the Hickory airport. Mr. Byer leads the readers to believe that it is the City that is driving Riverhawk, a private FBO, off the airport. This could not be further from the truth. He continues to lead the reader to believe a "redundant" City-owned fuel farm has been constructed at the airport and has placed the City of Hickory in direct competition with a private company, Riverhawk. This too is simply not true.

Since 2007, Riverhawk has been operating the FBO at the Hickory airport. Moreoever, they have been the exclusive operator at the Hickory airport. Never have they been in direct competition with the City or any other party for that matter. The Hickory airport houses only two fuel farms. Both of which are operated solely by Riverhawk. The City has proceeded with plans to construct it's own, City-owned and operated fuel farm. However, construction on that fuel farm has not yet begun and certainly has not had any negative impact on Riverhawk.

Why is this relevant? It's relevant because there is much that Mr. Byer has left out in his defense of Riverhawk Aviation. Riverhawk Aviation filed for bankruptcy earlier this year. For much of the 24 months, Riverhawk has been in default with the City regarding the concession fees it pays for operational rights at the airport. In addition, it is a matter of court record that several local pilots have submitted testimony to the bankruptcy court detailing Riverhawk's inability to fill fuel orders.

I am most definitely for free enterprise. I agree with Mr. Byer's theory that government entities should not compete against private businesses. However, that simply is not the case currently facing the City of Hickory and the operation of the FBO. While Riverhawk Aviation is most likely finished as the FBO provider at the Hickory airport, the City is in no way responsible for Riverhawk's decline.

Shame on Mr. Byer for perverting the issue by laying the inevitiable downfall of Riverhawk Aviation at the City of Hickory's feet. Mr. Byer wraps up his letter by stating that Riverhawk Aviation should be lauded for the vital role they have played in the economy and "treated as the valuable resource they are." I have a slightly different opinion. I submit that Riverhawk pay off it's debt to Hickory taxpayers, apologize for the mismanagement of our airport, and simply be on it's way.

Joe Brannock
Local Pilot
Member, 2006 City of Hickory Airport Taskforce


harryhipps said...

The City should inform the taxpayers and citizens of Hickory as to the financial condition of the airport immediately.

Ron Hallman said...

I for one am happy to hear this news. If the city would staff the FBO to stay open to at least 10pm, fix up the hangars, then really promote the airport, I believe it might be possible to attract previous occupants back to the airport and bring in new customers. With this economy, it will never be like it was in the 70 and the 80's when I worked there. Under the proper leadership, this could be a good thing for the City of Hickory and the flying community.