Some Lexington County Council members expressed concern Tuesday that the Pelion airstrip will never take off as an aviation hub.
“We need a game plan,” Councilman Darrell Hudson of Lexington said after learning the airstrip generated a $312,000 profit in 13 years of county management.
The airstrip in the largely rural southwest corner of the county remains mostly a favorite of “hobby planes” instead of the center for corporate travel that has been a long-time goal, he said.
Councilwoman Erin Long Bergeson of Chapin agreed that questions about whether the goal is possible need to be considered to determine if the airstrip is worth further development. County officials contribute $50,000 a year toward airport operations, which are financed mainly by fuel sales and hangar rents.
Annual flights at the airport now average 6,800 a year, an increase of 500 since 2012, records show.
No substantial increase is expected until after a $1 million upgrade of the runway set to occur in 2022, advisers have told county officials. Plans calls for the project to be paid for mainly with federal aid that comes from passenger fare taxes nationwide, with the county’s share expected to be $50,000.
Extension of the runway from 4,355 to 5,000 feet to attract small corporate jets remains just a dream because there is not enough aircraft traffic to make it worthwhile, advisers said in a report last fall.
Expansion of airstrip facilities will require patience since the payoff probably will take a few decades, council chairman Todd Cullum of Cayce said.
The 190-acre site eventually may attract more pilots and perhaps aviation-related industry with new hangars and runway improvements, he said.
“We’ve got to build activity,” he said. “This thing started as a very meager, meager airport.”
Tim Flach: 803-771-8483