Currituck airport manager is ECSU aviation grad
By Reggie Ponder
Monday, May 13, 2019
CURRITUCK — Currituck County’s new airport manager is the first to earn his academic degree from Elizabeth City State University’s aviation science program.
William Nelson, 21, started as Currituck County Regional Airport manager last week. In his role, he’s responsible for oversight of all operations at the airport.
“I have always been interested in airplanes,” Nelson said in an interview on Friday. “I took my first flying lesson at 14 and I have been hooked ever since.”
The Ahoskie native was Bearer of the Mace in ECSU’s December 2018 graduating class, an honor he earned by compiling the highest grade-point average for a non-transfer student. Nelson graduated from Lawrence Academy in Bertie County and then enrolled at ECSU.
“ECSU has an excellent aviation program,” Nelson said. The program is growing and continues to improve, he said.
This semester he in fact has mentored some aviation students at ECSU and he plans to continue making himself available to the university’s aviation science program as his other responsibilities allow.
“I love to help people and see other college students succeed,” Nelson said.
Ben Stikeleather, Currituck’s assistant county manager who will become the county manager July 1, said Nelson’s extensive knowledge of aviation set him apart from other excellent candidates who applied for the airport manager’s job.
“We’re really excited to have him here,” Stikeleather said. “I think he’s going to provide a lot of insight into the regulations and guidelines that airports are required to follow.”
Stikeleather said it’s great to have a university offering a four-year aviation science degree in nearby Elizabeth City.
Although he holds a commercial pilot license and hasn’t ruled out flying for an airline at some point, Nelson said he really enjoys smaller general aviation airports and looks forward to staying at Currituck Regional Airport long enough to grow the airport and spur more economic development by helping to recruit aviation-related industry to Currituck.
Nelson said he enjoys the camaraderie among pilots and staff at a smaller airport like Currituck’s.
“I really enjoy the aviation community that general aviation provides,” Nelson said. “There are a lot of cool people and a lot of cool airplanes, and I just really enjoy seeing everybody fly.”
In addition to the airport manager the facility employs five linemen — four full-time and one part-time. Nelson said he has been impressed with the professionalism and expertise the linemen bring to the job.
The new airport manager sees a lot of opportunity for growth at the airport.
“The best opportunity is location,” Nelson said.
The airport also is fortunate to offer a 5,500-foot runway, which enables commuter jets and even some larger aircraft to land at the facility.
The Currituck County Regional Airport has two rows of T-hangars and two rows of box hangars. There are 35-40 aircraft currently based at the airport but Nelson plans to grow that number.
Nelson said the airport includes enough undeveloped land to build additional hangars in order to accommodate growth. He also sees good potential for aircraft-related industry locating on the outskirts of the airport.
An Ohio-based aviation charter company also plans to offer flights to Currituck Regional Airport starting May 18. The flights by Ultimate Air Shuttle will mostly cater to Outer Banks vacationers and be offered on weekends only through Sept. 14. Vacationers arriving in Currituck will have the option of using flights offered by Outer Banks Aviation for connections to one of five airports in Dare County.
Despite being busy running the Currituck airport, Nelson still finds time to fly.
“That’s my love, is flying,” he said. “That’s what I enjoy doing.”
Nelson has visited 80 percent of the airports in North Carolina and also has landed at airports in other states.
“I’ve been all over,” he said.