Lowcountry Regional Airport will apply for Civil Rights grant

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By VICKI BROWN

vbrown@lowcountry.com

The Lowcountry Regional Airport Commission met Thursday, January 13 and unanimously voted to request that both the City of Walterboro and Colleton County submit Civil Rights Historical Register grant applications for the airport.

The airport has a long, historic past.

It opened in 1933 as a landing field, but in 1942 the United States Air Force needed a training airfield, so control was turned over to the USAF in February 1942.

A construction program began to turn the civil airport into a military airfield with runways and hangars, several taxiways, a large parking apron and a control tower. The military airport later hosted the largest camouflage school in the US, as well as a German Prisoner of War Camp with 250 prisoners.

In 1944, it became an advanced combat training base for individual fighters, primarily the black trainees graduating from Tuskegee Army Air Field in Tuskegee, Alabama.

More than 500 Tuskegee Airmen, who proved their dedication and expertise and ended military segregation, trained at Walterboro Army Air Field between April 1944 and October 1945. They flew more than 15,000 individual sorties in Europe and North Africa during World War II. Their impressive performance earned them more than 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses. A memorial at the site commemorates their service.

The motion was made to develop Oral Histories and Artifacts significant to the history of the airport and preserve the historic buildings located at the site.

In other business:

• The LRA Commission voted for airport projects to be submitted to county Capital Projects Sales Tax (CPST) Commission to improve Runway 17/35, runway lights and hangar construction.

The CPST Commission is tasked with the duty of considering proposals for funding capital projects within the County and formulating a question to appear on the ballot in November 2022 to impose a one cent sales tax. The revenues generated by the tax may be used to fund or defray costs of capital improvements.

• The LRA Commission also discussed recent progress with Roger Medlin, airport operations manager, who is reporting that December fuel sales were above average at just under 29.500 gallon for the month.

“We have had record 2021 fuel sales at just over 290,000 gallons for the year. Jet traffic is on the increase into the Lowcountry Regional Airport,” said Medlin. “January fuel sales are off to a very good start as we move into 2022.”

Medlin also reported that a new canopy covering for the fuel trucks was ordered and he was working on the estimate for a tetrahedron. A tetrahedron is an airport wind indicator. It tells pilots the direction of the wind. It is an alternative to a windsock and points into the wind showing pilots which way they should takeoff and land, which is done into the wind.

• Airport Manager Tommy Rowe reported that the State Aeronautics Commission delivered the new Foreign Object Debris sweeper to clean the runways. The purchase was approved by the Airport Commission. He also reported that several people were interested in building one or more corporate hangars here. That could mean significant growth for the airport, he said.

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