Beaufort News

Company to fly into Hilton Head - if town builds $300,000 taxiway

A South Carolina charter-flight company wants to provide intrastate air service at the Hilton Head Island Airport, but it first needs land and a taxiway.

Sea Breeze Airways LLC of Hilton Head sent a letter to the Beaufort County Airports Board asking to lease airport land to build a 14,000-square-foot maintenance hangar for aircraft it hopes to purchase for on-demand charter air service from the island to Greenville, Myrtle Beach and Columbia.

Doing so, however, would require the county to spend more than $300,000 to build a connecting taxiway.

The company made a similar proposal in 2000 that did not materialize, county officials said.

Sea Breeze representatives proposed leasing land next to the airport control tower under another company, WinMar Aerospace, according to the company's letter. They spent a "significant amount of money," only to be told the land was available but there was no access to taxiway and runway, the letter states.

"We got into preliminary discussions about the site ... but the county did not have the funding to build the taxiway," county airports director Paul Andres said.

Andres said the company's letter has been sent to the county's airport consultant, Talbert & Bright, to determine if the plans fit with future developments at the airport.

"If he's a serious investor and operator, we need to take him up on it," said Airports Board member Will Dopp.

Doing so would require Sea Breeze to provide the county with the appropriate "due diligence," Andres said, including a financial plan, as well as credentials and licensing from the Federal Aviation Administration. It also would need a place to accommodate air operations or an arrangement with the airport's fixed-base operator.

Fixed-base operators provide services to general-aviation aircraft and operators, such as refueling, aircraft parking and tie-down, and access to facilities for handling charter flights and passengers.

Sea Breeze Airways currently flies a Cessna 172 into the Hilton Head airport from Walterboro for charter flights to Atlanta, Jacksonville and around the state, according to a company representative. The plane can accommodate three passengers.

General manager Marty Craig wrote in a letter to the Airports Board that the company expects to hire 16 people during the first year of operation, with an estimated investment of $2.2 million in aircraft equipment. That all depends, though, on whether the county agrees to lease the land and provide a taxiway to the hangar, the letter said.

"We believe we can bring an enormous amount of profile to Hilton Head Island and greatly increase access to the island's economic and business centers from throughout the state of South Carolina," Craig wrote.Attempts to reach him for comment Friday were unsuccessful.