South Boston - Halifax County: William M Tuck Airport - W78

Flying Is Becoming A Major Business
In Halifax County

     Quietly, and without fanfare, flying in Halifax County has made leaps and bounds of progress since the day in 1946 when Frank Sadler of Clover bought his first airplane. At that time there was only one plane in the county. Sunday, July 8, 1956 there were 25.

The tremendous boom in flying is perhaps due to the efforts of two men and two organizations: Sadler, who runs the Clover airport; James Compton, operator of the William M. Tuck airport at South Boston; the Halifax Aero Club, and the William M. Tuck airport committee.

Tuck airport at Wolf Trap has grown in less than two years from what one writer called a "municipal quail roost" into a reasonably busy air strip, with an operator on duty seven days a week, a comfortable office, a telephone and a new metal hangar with a capacity of four planes.

At present 10 planes are based on the field, five of which belong to Compton; three to Alyor Talbott and two to private individuals. From the main hangar Compton operates a crop spraying service with three light planes equipped for spraying and maintains two other small craft, a two-place plane and a three-place plane, for rental and student training.

Talbott, who runs Aylor's Crop Spraying, operates two sprayers and keeps one plane for personal use. Located on the northern end of the field he has his own hangar from which he runs his spraying service. Also on the same end of the field is the hangar of Phillip Conner, manager of the Capital Plastics plant in South Boston, where he keeps a plane for personal and business use.

The Airport is owned by Halifax County and the town of South Boston. It is controlled by the county-town airport committee headed by Richard 0. Harrell Jr., and its members are appointed by the Board of Supervisors and the Town Council. Serving on the committee are John McRae, Dr. L. R Bailey, George R. Walden, Richard C. Edmunds, Dr. J, D. Hagood, Frank N. Crews, Jr., and the town manager and town treasurer of South Boston, Brent Remsburg and J. L. Hardy.

Funds for the maintenance of the field come from several sources. It was originally built with Federal, State and local funds and today, for capital improvements, help is usually available from the Aviation Section of the State Corporation Commission. SCC funds went a long way towards paying the bill of over $17,500 incurred in the erection of the new hangar last year and Hardy says that Colonel Allen C. Perkinson, head of the Aviation Section, has been "Most helpful" with the problems faced by the committee.

Some income is derived from the field itself. $300 a year rental from land devoted to fanning, $500 a year from Compton, who holds an operating lease on the property and $10 a year each from Conner and Talbott, who built their own hangars on the property. In addition in the counties budget and in the towns upcoming budget, $500 from each government is set aside for the airport committee. This, it is hoped, will be a regular appropriation from the town and county in future years.

The chief expense of the field is the maintenance of the landing strips. Of sod, the strips have to be reseeded and fertilized approximately every three years and fertilized every year to keep them in proper shape. At the last Board of Supervisors meeting the feasibility of a hard surface runway at the field received some slight discussion and a movement to secure such a runway is apparently in the beginning stages.

As an asset to the community the field rates high in the opinion of most observers. The Chamber of Commerce never fails to mention it when dickering with an industrial concern and that it is important in this respect is illustrated by the frequency with which it is used by Burlington Mills, Leggett's and J. P Stevens executive planes. Executives of large industries now travel to a great extent by air and the possession of a good airfield is a prime asset to any area seeking additional industry.

Aerial crop spraying is an important part of any tobacco rasing community, and the two sprayer outfits based on the field plus the one in at Clover play a small but vital part in the economy of the county. Tobacco is particularly subject to a multitude of ills from insects and disease, and aerial spraying is one of the most economical methods of control.

Operation of the spraying service is the primary support of the airfields. Compton reports that Tuck Airport, which he has operated for just over one year, is not a paying proposition yet. It is, however, a necessary base for his spraying and this apparently makes up for the deficit he incurs in operating the field.

As a recreational and educational institution the airport has a tremendous effect. Flying is a sport engaged in by many men of the county and town, and Compton, who is a licensed instructor, reports that he has had and has approximately 25 flight students, several of whom have obtained their private pilots license. While the majority of these students learn to fly for the pleasure of it only, a few will inevitably go to fill the serious need for commercial and military pilots existing today.

The requirements for a private license are 15 hours of instruction in the plane by a licensed instructor, and 25 hours of solo time. The total cost comes to $310 (at both fields) and the income from this source is an important part of the total.

Compton reports a gradually increasing business at Tuck. Gasoline sales, for example, almost doubled in the second six months of operation and the number of transient planes which land to take advantage of the facilities offered is gradually increasing as advertising of the field begin to take hold.

In addition to flight instruction and crop spraying, Compton offers sight-seeing tours by air, a charter service and aerial advertising. As a licensed aircraft mechanic he maintains his own planes and help the owners of planes based on the field with their maintenance work, but does not engage in it as a business.

The needs of the field are still great. More hangar space could be used to advantage; a hard-surface road into the field from State Route 716; a hard-surface runway; a better and cheaper method of securing aviation gasoline; additional gasoline pumping facilities and a number of other things. These needs are being worked on however, by the airport committee, by Compton and by numerous air-minded citizens, and as the demand for them grows heavier they will undoubtedly be met. Interest in flying in Halifax County is great and in the foreseeable future it will continue to grow.

The South Boston News
Tuesday, July 10, 1956