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Horace Williams Airport
20080618 Horace Williams Airport IGX.jpg
Airport type Public / General aviation
Owner/Operator University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Serves University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, Orange County and surrounding area.
Location Chapel Hill
Elevation AMSL 512 ft / 156.1 m
Coordinates 35°56′06″N 079°03′57″W / 35.935°N 79.06583°W / 35.935; -79.06583
Direction Length Surface
ft m
9L/27R 4,005 1,221 Asphalt
Statistics (2006)
Scheduled boardings 0
Unscheduled boardings 21
Total boardings 21
Statistics from FAA.[1]

Horace Williams Airport (IATA: IGXICAO: KIGXFAA LID: IGX) (originally Martindale Field) is a public airport located one mile (1.6 km) north of Chapel Hill, a city in Orange County, North Carolina, United States. The airport is owned by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and named for Prof. Horace Williams, Chair of Mental and Moral Science (Philosophy) at the University during the first half the twentieth century.[2] It is mostly used for general aviation with a small amount of air taxi service and military usage.[3] The airport was part of a large gift of land to the university by professor Horace Williams in the 1930s, and while the professor did not restrict the use of the property to airport use, it has been an airport since 1933. Presidents Ford and George H. Bush received Navy primary flight training at the airport. President Kennedy visited UNC in October, 1961 and arrived and departed via Horace Williams Airport.

Horace Williams Airport is home to North Carolina's Area Health Education Center (AHEC) program, which flies doctors and medical specialists participating in instructional and outreach programs, serving outlying communities in under-served areas of the state.[4] In addition, some private flights also help bring distant patients to the UNC Hospitals, as well as occasionally serving as rapid air link with hospital helicopter service for time-critical organ transplants.

Closure plans

The University plans to close the airport to make room for construction of Carolina North,[5] a planned major long-term expansion of its campus.[6][7]

Opposition to closure plans began immediately after the announcement of the planned closure, in 2000 when pilots claimed that closing this air field would be a loss of infrastructure that would never be replaced. They pointed out that one of the unique features of Chapel Hill is the airfield. In their view, North Carolina advertises "First In Flight" on every automobile license plate, hence, the move to close Horace Williams Airport represents short sighted planning in terms of the future of aviation and Chapel Hill. They note that upgrades to the airport approved by the FAA have kept pace with current technology and it is staffed with meticulous attention detail and careful people. Their position is that there is something very special about airplanes, and to lose them in Chapel Hill for the sake of more buildings, traffic and population density must be carefully considered. According to stated views of pilots and plane owners on this issue, the overall pride and flavor of the area ought to be taken into account before such a drastic measure begins.

Horace Williams Airport in June, 2005.

Conflict between the Town and airport advocates has had a history dating back to the 1980s, revolving around issues such as the location of the airport in a residential area that includes 4 schools, a church, and a YMCA, as well as several crashes in the area that eventually resulted in the University's ejection of a flying club flight school from the airport. Critics of the airport noticed that the University's first plans for the Carolina North project included keeping the airport in close proximity to occupied buildings and reminded the University that liability in the event of another crash could be substantial, given the existence of known guidelines recommending against building so close to a working runway. In addition, interested private-industry interests indicated concern about the costs and liabilities of building on the site if the airport remained. The plans for Carolina North were revised, and the UNC Board of Trustees commissioned a study on the basis of which they ordered the airport closed.

The University's plans for airport closure have been blocked in the state legislature on at least three occasions since the 2000 announcement. Although some planes using the airport do so on University business, opposition to closure has historically been offered primarily by private plane owners and general aviation lobbyists desiring to preserve their access to the airport. Most recently, opposition efforts have focused on the University's planned move of six AHEC planes to new facilities at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, to make way for construction of the first phase of the new Carolina North campus project, planned to include teaching, research, and cooperative public-private projects affiliated with the University.


  1. ^ Calendar Year 2006 Enplanements at U.S. Airports (PDF). Accessed June 3, 2008.
  2. ^ Horace Williams. Accessed June 3, 2008.
  3. ^ AirNav: KIGX - Horace Williams Airport. Accessed May 25, 2008.
  4. ^ NC AHEC Medical Air Operations. Accessed May 25, 2008.
  5. ^ Carolina North. Accessed May 25, 2008.
  6. ^ UNC announces plans to close Horace Williams Airport. Accessed May 25, 2008.
  7. ^ UNC Gets OK to Close Horace Williams Airport. Accessed May 25, 2008.

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