In the eight years Wes Kirkpatrick has managed the Monroe County Airport, his personal accomplishments have included a new T-hangar, private hangar development for corporate jets, pavement rejuvenation, a new fuel system and a new terminal constructed to replace a 1,000-square-foot structure built in the 1970s.
By recently being appointed to the Mississippi Airports Association (MAA) Board of Directors, he can now add more personal accomplishments by lending a voice to decisions effecting airports’ interests and aviation in Mississippi. He was appointed to a three-year term during this year’s annual convention in Natchez. The MAA has 14 members.
“To me, it’s a pretty big honor when you consider the majority of the board is made up of members from commercial airports, and general aviation only gets a couple of seats. To be part of that is an honor,” he said.
The board of directors meets on a quarterly basis. The MAA provides a means of discussion for its members, gives advice and consultation to members and deals with legislation dealing with airports and aviation.
Kirkpatrick expressed to the president of the board of directors he would be willing to serve if the opportunity ever came about. His main goal is to increase membership. Mississippi has 72 airports and of the MAA’s 66 members, only 22 are airports. Others include consultants, business people and members of government.
“I’m hoping to grow airport membership by reaching out to managers of smaller airports to let them know about the resources,” he said, adding there are several networking opportunities through membership. “I know not all general aviation airports have full-time managers, but I’d like to get someone from their city or their board to serve.”
According to a 2012 Mississippi Department of Transportation study, the total economic output for airports in Mississippi was $2.5 billion.
Of the state’s list of airports, eight are commercial. In cases such as Monroe County, many people don’t realize their county even has an airport.
“If it’s not a commercial airport, people aren’t as familiar with it or they may know and not realize the economic impact it has,” Kirkpatrick said. “I take it personally when people show up here and say it’s a really nice airport. I know where the bar is and I try to keep it up there.”
Kirkpatrick graduated from Delta State University’s aviation program and flew for a regional airline for four years before the Monroe County Airport manager position became available. He still flies some, but the airport has become his passion.
He said between $100,000 to $105,000 of the airport’s budget comes from the county’s general fund, but the airport’s gas fund provides for capital expenses and matching funds for grants. Additionally, he said the Monroe County Airport has a strong flying community.
“We’ve got probably some of the best pilots around. Pilots from Tupelo, Columbus and West Point have planes housed here, and we’re one of the most active general aviation airports,” Kirkpatrick said.
According to the 2012 MDOT study, the county’s airport ranked 11th in the state for based aircraft.