Airplanes can be fascinating or frightening, depending on one’s fear of heights. Those who are frightened are adamantly opposed to being lifted off the ground. But those who are fascinated, love them simply because they defy gravity.
Wendall Hall of Cheraw was 22 years old when he took his first airplane ride. His bright blue eyes light up, and he smiles, when he remembers that first flight with Frank Sherill.
“I fell in love immediately,” Hall said, “but it (his career in aviation) didn’t happen immediately.”
Hall not only learned to fly planes, he learned how to put them together and take them apart again. He knows, and admittedly, loves them inside and out.
That love has passed on to his son, Scotty Hall, who literally grew up under the shadow of a plane’s wing. Together, they are the heartbeat of the Cheraw Municipal Airport. They, along with the rest of the community, have watched that facility grow over the last few decades.
Much of the traffic in and out of Cheraw Municipal Airport on a weekly basis is local, in planes that are privately owned. But, according to Scotty Hall, there are an average of two or three flights a month from several of the industries in town.
Although it may not be as busy as one might think, it’s extremely important to have an airport for the area’s industry and business community, said Wendall Hall. “It’s also important in attracting business to the community,” he said. “If you don’t have an airport for new industry, they’ll go somewhere else.”
A few years ago, realizing the importance of the airport to the community and the need for upgrades, the Cheraw Airport Commission and the Town of Cheraw decided upon a progressive plan to add a parallel taxiway and more lighting. The first segment of that taxiway, leading from the tarmac toward Highway 9, was completed two years ago.
Now, with the help of grants from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the South Carolina Aeronautics Commission, construction of the final segment of the parallel taxiway will soon begin. The new segment of runway will lead toward the back side of the airport.
“From a safety standpoint,” said Wendall Hall, “there will be a huge difference.” When this is complete, the taxiway and the runway will be completely separate. “Pilots will be able to run the full length of the taxiway and never have to get on the runway until they are ready to take off.”
The Town of Cheraw assisted the effort to secure these grants for a total $763,863. The FAA grant is a 90 percent Aviation Improvement grant that calls for matching funds of just 10 percent. Cheraw Town Council agreed unanimously Sept. 11 to provide those matching funds in the amount of $38,193.
As for the Halls, they will mostly likely be on hand at the maintenance hangar if you go out to visit. After all, you never know when the next young pilot of the community will be bitten by the love bug of aviation.
— Staff Writer Karen Kissiah can be reached at 843-537-5261, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.