BRIDGEPORT — Aviation professionals from across the state descended into Bridgeport Sunday for the start of the 16th annual West Virginia Aviation Conference at the Bridgeport Conference Center in Bridgeport.
Hosted by the North Central Regional Airport, airport director Rick Rock said the annual event held throughout the state attracted airport managers, engineers, consultants and others in the industry for three days of speakers, networking, exhibits and events.
“The weekend has started out nice. We had a good morning (Sunday) shooting golf and clays and showing off the area,” Rock said. “We’re real excited about having this (at the Bridgeport Conference Center) — they do a great job for us.
“It’s a great way to celebrate aviation.”
Rock, who expected representatives from most of the state’s 35 airports through Tuesday, has been organizing the annual conference for about a year.
“And we have, I think, more than 50 percent more people than we’ve had in the past. We encouraged people to bring their families or spouses,” Rock said. “I think we’re going to have a nice three-day conference.”
Brent Brown, Huntington Tri-State Airport director for about nine months, said daily flights take off out of the Wayne County airport to either Chicago or cities in the state of Florida or South Carolina. Sunday was his first day being able to travel around and enjoy Bridgeport, which he called “a great atmosphere, beautiful.”
Raleigh County Memorial Airport Manager Tom Cochran said “the conference is always a good promotional boost for aviation and for our state — a way to learn different techniques in aviation as well as economic development.”
The airport in Beckley hosts next year’s conference.
The conference’s itinerary includes talks from experts and officials from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Security Association.
“I always look forward to hearing from the (Federal Aviation Administration) to see what updates they can provide us. That helps us with our planning,” Brown said.
Brown also looked forward to a session Monday with Volaire Aviation’s Mike Mooney to discuss air service development.
Following a breakfast with exhibits, state Airport Managers Association President Clint Ransom will open the conference at 8:30 a.m. Monday. He is expected to be joined by state Department of Transportation Assistant Secretary Robby Queen and Bridgeport Mayor Andy Lang before the start of six presentations.
“We at the association try to come together as a whole to go for the greater good of aviation in West Virginia,” said Ransom, who has managed the Mercer County Airport in Bluefield for five years and been association president since February.
Lang, who will actually fly out of North Central West Virginia Airport this September for a trip with his daughter Miranda, is also part of the Benedum Airport Authority board.
“Any event we can get here in Bridgeport is good for the town, but the airport is not Bridgeport; it’s not Clarksburg, it’s not Harrison County — it’s North Central West Virginia,” Lang said. “This is a great opportunity for anyone from West Virginia that has something to do with aviation from all of our airports to come together and learn about new things. It’s good for everyone.”
A dinner will be held at the Bridgeport Conference Center prior to the annual West Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame Induction Dinner ceremony at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Robinson Grand Performing Arts Center in downtown Clarksburg. The ceremony will also include a dedication and induction of aviation professionals that served in the military, the Wall of Valor.
“(The Aviation Hall of Fame and Wall of Valor) is the highlight of the conference. It’s a way for us to recognize the contributions of pioneers in aviation from the state of West Virginia,” Rock said.
Ransom served on the committee that chose this year’s Hall of Fame inductees, the late James Griffith and the late Samuel Frankman.
A pair of meetings will be held at the Bridgeport Conference Center Tuesday — at 11 a.m. with the West Virginia Airport Managers Association and the WV Aeronautics Commission meeting at 1 p.m.