Gold Hill pilot lands at 68 S.C. public airports in a day

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Gold Hill resident Ron Schreck, who touched down at all 109 public-use airports in North Carolina last Fourth of July, landed at all 68 public-use airports in South Carolina this year on Independence Day. 
“Only 48 states to go” he said as he sat down to enjoy a hamburger at the Gold Hill Airpark’s community picnic.
Schreck, 62, made his record-breaking flight to call attention to the plight of general aviation airports in the Carolinas that are in danger of being closed, mostly due to development.
“Many communities see the sale of their local airport to developers as a way to balance budgets. Strained by the loss of revenue as their tax base dwindles due to foreclosures and business failures, community leaders see a fast buck to be made by selling airport land to wealthy developers at fire sale prices. I am hoping that my flight today will call attention to local airports and all that they provide,” he said.
Schreck, a retired Air Force fighter pilot and Vietnam veteran, flew for Piedmont Airlines and USAirways until he retired at age 60. He told the Post last year he continues to fly in support of whale survey missions and to help combat wildfires with the U.S. Forest Service.
William Cook, a professor of mathematics at Georgia Tech, helped Schreck prepare for his flight. Cook has spent years developing algorithms to solve the “Traveling Salesman Problem” which has consumed mathematicians for years. The problem is simple: a traveling salesman has dozens of cities to visit and must find the shortest route to take in order to minimize travel time and maximize his profit. The solution is not so simple. Once the number of cities reach twelve, the number of possible routes is into the billions! “I just gave Bill the coordinates of the 68 airports I needed to visit and he came back to me with the optimum route” said Schreck. “I flew it exactly as planned.” The route covered 1052 miles and Schreck completed the flight in ten hours and fifty-four minutes, including stops for fuel, which took one hour and twenty-two minutes. Schreck averaged a landing every eight and a half minutes. Cook provided the flight plan for Schreck√≠s tour of North Carolina airports in 2007 and the professor often cites the airport tour as an example of the utility of his algorithm.

“If news of my flight to all of South Carolina√≠s public use airports can make just one city or county official vote to keep their local airport, then I guess the effort is worth it,” said Schreck.