For nearly half a dozen years, Dion Viventi has directed the day-to-day operations of Rocky Mount-Wilson Regional Airport.
The Telegram recently asked Viventi what his working day was like when he arrived at the aviation facility off NC 97 southwest of Rocky Mount.
Does he work in his office? Does he walk around? Does he talk to people? Does it work phones? Does it communicate by two-way radio?
The answer is all of the above.
“I am in charge of monitoring airport operations,” Viventi said. “So I have a lot of people to help me with that. I have an airport operations manager. I have an FBO (Fixed-Based Operations) manager. I have a CFO — and we’re a team. And together we can make it all happen. And of course we have line technicians and maintenance technicians who help us.
“So we’re just one team – and I’m here to help lead the team. And that’s what I do,” he said. it’s another great day in aviation. I can’t wait to get out here — and I’m going out and doing runway inspections.
“I talk to customers. Sometimes I refuel planes. Sometimes I do flight instruction. I attend many meetings with consultants, tenants and contractors – and it’s just a great plethora of interactions,” he said with a laugh and a smile.
“That’s great,” he said. “So it’s been a very satisfying career and a privilege for me to be able to hold this position.”
Additionally, the Civil Air Patrol’s Tar River Composite Squadron operates out of the airport. Viventi is also part of the squadron.
CAP is a public service organization based at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala. CAP supports American communities with emergency response, various aeronautical and ground services, youth development, and the promotion of air, space, and cyber power through aerospace education.
According to earlier press accounts, the land was officially opened in 1966 for the Rocky Mount-Wilson Regional Airport, with an estimated cost of $1.4 million and the plan being that half the amount would come from a federal grant and the other half will be funded by the Counties of Nash, Wilson and Edgecombe and the towns of Rocky Mount and Wilson.
A groundbreaking ceremony followed in 1970, and the airport began hosting air charter operations and commercial service routes via Piedmont Airlines.
The days when Piedmont planes landed and took off from RWI Regional Airport are long gone and the airport has become a general aviation facility.
Currently, Viventi and its team handle business jets and general aviation aircraft of all sizes – and the airport is also home to cargo operations.
Viventi said one of the biggest challenges came as the facility began to deteriorate.
He said that with the assistance of the Federal Aviation Administration and the State Aviation Division, all infrastructure – including the runway, taxiway and apron system – has been renovated and the entire airfield has been fitted with completely new lighting.
“And so, it’s very attractive now,” Viventi said.
Viventi also said that the Airport Authority, which is the airport’s supervisory board, carried out a risk-benefit analysis and decided to take over the fuel sales part of the operation in-house, which led to a 500% increase in fuel sales.
The facility also has a state-of-the-art self-service fuel facility, with pilots able to land 24/7, refuel and get back in the air.
“And we had to because we quintupled the number of planes based here,” he said, referring to the fact that there were now 50 planes based at Rocky Mount-Wilson Regional Airport. .
“And we keep the airport terminal open 24/7 for pilots and their crews to enter and use the facilities,” he said.
He also showed a space on the premises where three new tee sheds are going to be built. Generally, a tee hangar is an enclosed structure designed to hold aircraft in protective storage.
These future three hangars in tee will be adjacent to three new hangars in tee.
Plans also call for the renovation of seven T-sheds currently in place.
Overall, Viventi said Rocky Mount-Wilson Regional Airport has a pretty big future ahead of it.
Viventi said that due to the location, demographics and surrounding transportation infrastructure, the airport is very attractive to have as a multimodal transportation hub for aviation, rail service and trucks – c i.e. a place to allow the transfer of freight from one form of transport to another.
Viventi also said the airport received a grant from the federal government’s Economic Development Administration to complete a feasibility study and update the airport’s master plan.
He said the aim was to find out whether it would be useful to expand the airport to include an aviation industrial park and a multimodal hub.
When asked if the feasibility study would include whether he would like to have another area for pilots other than those currently based at the airport to land and take off, he said yes.
“It would be a mirror image of that on the other side of the airport,” he said.
At the same time, he made it clear that he and others did not want to see a lot of money spent on infrastructure improvements if it was not profitable.
“So we’ll see what happens, but we’ll leave it to the experts to help us figure out where to go next,” he said. “The one thing about the feasibility study and updating the airport master plan is that if it turns out to be a good idea and you update the airport master plan, then it becomes justifiable for funding.
“And if it’s justifiable and accommodating, then you can qualify for federal and state funding to make the improvements, but not unless you have it on a master plan,” he said.
He said that a request for proposal has been issued for the feasibility study.
Airport authority chairman Garry Hodges, who represents the town of Rocky Mount on the panel and is a photographer and pilot, told Telegram what he thinks the airport’s future holds.
“Well, we know from DOT (State Department of Transportation) data that the population in our area is going to increase dramatically, spilling out of Wake County into southern Nash County and into Johnston County, coming back to Spring Hope — and eventually migrating all to our area,” Hodges said.
Hodges said that looking into a crystal ball, in 15 to 20 years he would see a complex and industrial park on the southeast side of the airport across from the NC 97 runway.
“And I would see 8,000 to 10,000 new jobs in our area there,” Hodges said. “I would see a rail spur coming out of the south side of Sharpsburg into the industrial park, with intermodal traffic supporting this future commerce. I would see a second big runway, although our runway is capable of handling just about any jet out there right now.
He also said the industrial park would be equipped to move freight in and out and connect to the CSX intermodal facility near NC Wesleyan University, Port of Wilmington, NC Global TransPark multimodal, industrial and commercial park. adjacent to Kingston. and Virginia Ports in the Hampton Roads area of the Commonwealth.
He said that due to the increase in industry and the increase in population, “we will have regular air service flying into Rocky Mount, constantly flying out of there.”
Hodges said he sees NC 97, which is currently two lanes wide, being widened to four lanes southwest to Interstate 95 and possibly even northeast to Rocky Mount.
Rocky Mount Mayor Sandy Roberson, who is also a pilot, has worked at the Rocky Mount-Wilson Regional Airport since his early 20s.
Roberson said he sees big things happening at the airport under Viventi’s leadership.
“I’ve been very happy to see the growth that he’s really starting to put in place,” Roberson said.
Roberson noted that Viventi built the new tee hangars and noted that they were all leased.
“When you look at the economic impact of this on the region, it’s huge,” Roberson said.
Roberson also said that if the airport can get an aircraft base, it means keeping dollars from tax revenue and fuel sales.
“What I’ve seen Viventi do as well as anyone is they’ve invited companies here,” he said. “He lowered his gas prices. We become that airport where a lot of people want to stop to refuel when traveling north and south or to other nearby places. And it’s a big, big, big, big, big, big daddy thing.
He also said he has seen that cargo activity at the airport has really increased.
One of the airmen based outside the airport is Donnie Russ, who is a pilot for Rocky Mount-based Eagle Transport, which transports oil and chemicals via large rigs.
Russ is also a local native and local resident who, prior to becoming a pilot for Eagle Transport, had long been a pilot for Hardee’s Food Systems when the company was based in Rocky Mount.
Russ can also be described as a rarity in the community.
This is because Russ over his lifetime has flown in and out of a number of major airports such as Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, John F. Kennedy International, Chicago O’Hare International and Los Angeles International.
Russ noted that during his time with Hardee’s he flew to Los Angeles International a number of times and to and from Canada and Mexico.
When asked by Telegram if he believes Rocky Mount-Wilson Regional Airport has a bright future, he replied, “Oh, absolutely.”
“If we keep the economy going, we have a good future,” he said.
As for what goes through his mind as he prepares to take off and take off from the airport, he said with a smile and a laugh, “Well, you hate to leave the house, but it looks great when you come back. ”
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