APRIL 26, 2012 11:27 a.m. (0)
Kids and airplanes are a natural combination, and a new park planned for the Greenville Downtown Airport will have both.
Grading for the approximately 1.5 acre park next to the Runway Café will begin in May, said Lara Kaufman, marketing director for the airport.
The airport has raised about $30,000 of the estimated $350,000 to $450,000 needed to complete the park, she said. After a total cost estimate is received, the airport will seek grants and donations to finish the project.
One reason for the park is to interest more children in aviation and becoming pilots, said airport director Joe Frasher. Pilots are expected to be in short supply nationwide within 15 years to 20 years, Kaufman said.
“If you talk to a lot of pilots, they say they became interested in aviation as kids,” she said. “But kids can’t experience aviation like they used to.”
Before the 9/11 terrorist attacks and resulting security changes, some 10,000 school-aged children toured the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport annually. They were allowed to explore areas of the airport the flying public doesn’t usually see and given the chance to board a plane.
National security restrictions no longer allow such freedom at GSP, but the same is not true for the smaller Downtown Airport, located between the commercial corridors of I-385, Laurens Road, Pleasantburg Drive and Haywood Road. And “smaller” is a relative word.
The Greenville Downtown Airport handles about 60,000 flights per year and is the busiest general aviation airport in South Carolina. The Greenville Jet Center, which is located at the airport, is the largest fixed-base operation in the state.
With the construction of this park, Downtown Airport staff hope to fill a void for school tours that 9/11 took away.
The new park, which is offering naming rights, will have a playground, “runways” and a perimeter “taxiway” around the park for exercisers. A natural amphitheater will be available for school trip lessons and viewing the airport’s real runway activity. An antique airplane hangar will be transformed into a picnic pavilion and a plane fuselage will serve as the entrance to the park. Airplane wings will provide shade over park benches.
The Greenville Airport Commission is donating use of its land for the park. Donations to the park are tax deductible, Kaufman said.
“We think this park will be a perfect addition to Greenville’s growing aviation- and transportation-oriented community,” said Hank Brown, owner of the Greenville Jet Center.
The first fundraising event for the park, “Party Down for the Playground Hangar Party,” will be held May 24 from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m.
Beach band Legends of Beach will perform. Tickets are $30 and admission is limited to those 21 years old or older. Food, beer and wine are included in the ticket price.
Tickets are available online at www.eventbrite.com/event/2875439517 and at the Greenville Jet Center, 100 Tower Drive; Beach Bob Oldies Show, 103.3 WOLT-FM studio at 225 S. Pleasantburg Drive, Suite B3; Donaldson Jet Center, 126 Club Loop; and Smith Drug Company at 441 E. Henry St. in Spartanburg.
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