Its runway might not host the enormous airbuses that pass through Greenville, but the buzz of propellers at Greenwood’s airport each day often marks a buzz of business in the county, too.
The one-runway airport was deeded to the county in 1947 by the federal government’s War Assets Administration, following the end of World War II. By 1949, Southern Airways was providing commercial flights from the local airport — and would continue the service through 1974.
Inside the building at the end of Terminal Road there might not be a TSA checkpoint of full-body scanner, but staff does refer to the pair statues of the Blues Brothers as “security.” It’s a quaint building inside that hosts a lot of business for the county, said Rossie Corwon, county engineer who oversees the airport’s operation.
“We have a number of economic aircraft that come in here to service local industries,” she said. “I think the people of this county had a lot of foresight buying that property after the federal government released it.”
The state Aeronautics Commission’s 2018 report said the Greenwood County Airport had an annual statewide economic impact of about $7.7 million. The operating costs of the airport are covered by the leasing fees for the airport’s 62 general aviation hangars and seven commercial hangars, Corwon said — all general hangars are currently full.
If the county needs additional funds for projects at the airport, they apply for Federal Aviation Administration grants, or sell of timber from nearby county property to cover match-grant costs.
“We try to be fiscally responsible and not use county tax money,” Corwon said.
Besides corporate visitors and aviators stopping by to refuel, Greenwood’s airport also hosts military crafts stopping by during exercises, can serve as a landing sight for medical flights or the hub for law enforcement air searches and is the take-off point for many agricultural fertilizer-spraying planes.
It’s also where local aviation enthusiasts can live out their passions — people like local pilot Bo Bowman.
“I moved here in 2001 and one of the criteria was I wanted a nice, convenient airport,” he said.
There’s a certain familiarity between recreational pilots here, he said. Several local pilots became close through Greenwood’s chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association, but a love for flying means every recreational pilot gets to know their hangar neighbors, he said.
While recreational flights are what drive people like Bowman, he said that’s clearly not all the airport has to offer. But when he does interviews on the radio to discuss his historical research into local aviation history, he said the station always gets at least one caller who didn’t know Greenwood had an airport.
“I think it’s a very valuable resource, and it’s a big contributor to a city the size of Greenwood and up,” he said.