County airport has new manager
By Jessie Burchette
A Lexington commercial pilot has been selected as the new manager for the Rowan County Airport.
Thad M. Howell Jr. is now on the job as manager of the county-owned airport off South Main Street.
Howell replaces Tony Hankerson, who resigned last month.
The son of a Pan Am pilot, Howell has been around aviation for all of his 32 years.
“Aviation is my passion. That’s why I wanted the job,” Howell said recently. “It’s a great opportunity.”
A native of Salisbury, Md., Howell lived in cities across the country growing up as his father’s flight schedule changed.
Over the past several years, Howell has lived in Lexington, the hometown of his wife, Chrissy. She is a speech therapist in the Davidson County School System.
Howell takes over the airport at a time when the county is developing a plan to make major changes, including extending the runway by 1,000 feet.
The county is also working to build large hangars to accommodate corporate jets.
A 1999 graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., Howell earned a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical science.
His career has included a stint with American Airlines in Dallas, Texas, where he focused on pilot recruitment.
He also worked as a flight instructor in Greensboro.
In 1999 and 2000, Howell served as a certified flight instructor for Dillons Aviation in Greenville. While there, he also piloted fire-patrol aircraft for the N.C. Department of Forestry in fire detection missions, as well as aerial photography flights for local news and land-development firms.
Since 2000, he has worked as a pilot with American Eagle Airlines in Dallas, Texas.
Ken Deal, county director of administration, said Howell has a lot of experience that includes dealing with the Federal Aviation Administration.
“He has a lot of good ideas,” Deal said.
Hankerson left in August to take a job in Monroe with a recycling project.
Hired in January 2005, Hankerson was the first airport manager hired by the county.
Until 2004, the county leased the airport to fixed-base operators.
After a multitude of problems with the last operator, Salisbury Air Service, the county assumed control of the airport in October 2004.