It’s no secret that air travel has been impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic.
At Yeager Airport, travel is picking back up and we are almost back at pre-pandemic levels.
According to the latest Longwoods International tracking study of American travels, the majority of American travels have some level of vaccination with 57% fully vaccinated. That number is up from March and April.
George Zimmerman with Longwoods International believes travel attitudes go hand-in-hand with the state of the pandemic.
“The travel industry will not fully recover until it’s generally accepted we have beat the virus,” said Zimmerman.
According to Longwoods International data, 30% of people are still planning on traveling between October and December, even with the spread of the Delta Variant. However, the same data shows 15% have postponed travel plans to 2022. Unlike during past pandemic surges, it appears not that many Americans are dropping their vacation plans entirely.
In regard to the possibility of a mandated vaccine, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on Sunday said, “We have not yet gotten to the point of requiring vaccinations on domestic flights, but everything is on the table.
When it comes to international travel, 54% support vaccination requirements or proof of immunity for all international travelers coming into the United States.
“When it was terrible at the beginning, obviously travel was way down. Then the vaccines came and all of a sudden there was optimism. When people got vaccinated things started to pick back up. We were rolling around until June and July and that’s when the Delta variant started taking a hold of the U.S., the numbers started to reverse and daily cases were going up, hospitalizations were up and once that happened the travel’s attitude started to fall.”
The chart below shows passengers who have crossed Transportation Security Administration airport security checkpoints each day since March 2020.
Passengers who have crossed Transportation Security Administration airport security checkpoints each day since March 2020.
Of course, there are safe ways to travel. Airlines and airports are still under a federal mask mandate. Daily cleanings are still being done on and off the planes.
During the pandemic, CRW has continued to increase cleaning efforts, especially in high point touch areas. Air ducts have been cleaned, UV-C lights in vents have been installed throughout the airport, as well as putting in new MERV filters. To add those efforts, CRW is now an ACI Health Accredited Airport.
Yeager Airport is going to have nightly closures of its runway (RWY 5/23) starting on July 5th through November 22nd. The runway is also going to be closed on eight Saturdays. The runway closures are part of an $8.7 million runway rehabilitation project.
The rehabilitation project includes
- Replacing the centerline light system with a new LED system
- Light installation at Taxiway C
- Milling and paving the 30-foot center (keel) of the runway
- Improving the runway profile to remove dips that do not meet FAA standards
Construction workers paving runway 5/23 during phase 1 of the runway rehab project.
This project is being 100-percent funded by the FAA and does not require a local match.
The Saturday runway closures are:
- August 6-8
- August 13-15
- August 20-22
- September 10-12
- September 24-26
- October 1-3
- October 8-10
- November 19-21
“I know these closures could impact some of our passengers travel plans,” said Yeager Airport Director and CEO Nick Keller. “But the work being done is necessary to make sure CRW is set up for success as the airport continues to grow.”
There are two contingent Saturdays, for runway closures at Yeager Airport, built into the schedule to accommodate for bad weather.
- Contingent Saturday #1 October 15-17
- Contingent Saturday #2 October 22-24
On the weekend of the Saturday closures, the runway will be shut down starting at 11PM on Friday and will reopen Sunday at 7am.
Early Pilots in Aviation
When you think back to the earliest pilots in aviation, your mind quickly goes to two names. Orville and Wilbur Wright. And rightfully (no pun intended) so. 117 years ago, the two brothers piloted the first airplane near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. And thus, North Carolina got the title of “First in Flight.”
West Virginia also has a seat at the table when it comes to the early pilots in aviation. The mountain state is home to a pioneer in aviation. Paul Peck was a world record holder, the first pilot to transport U.S. Mail, and one of the first U.S. Military aviation instructors. And he was also from West Virginia.
Who was Paul Peck?
Born in 1889 in Ansted, West Virginia, Peck grew up in Hinton. As a kid, Peck took an interest in cars and liked to work on their motors. His love of machinery, specifically engines, led him to the skies.
In 1911, just seven years after the Wright Brothers’ first flight, Peck took his first flight lesson at 22-years-old. He would go on to learn how to fly in just seven days and became the 57th pilot to be licensed by the International Aeronautics Federation. Peck is often thought of as the first pilot in West Virginia.
Two weeks after earning his pilot’s license, Peck set a world speed record in Washington, DC covering 24 miles in 25 minutes. Peck would go on to do many other firsts as a pilot.
- The first pilot to carry U.S. Mail via airplane
- The first pilot to fly over the U.S. Capitol (set the speed record)
- Set an endurance record in Boston, flying for four hours, 23 minutes, and 15 seconds
- One of three officers chosen by the War Department to learn to fly under Glenn H. Curtiss
- An instructor at the nation’s first military aviation school
Peck was well known in his day for being able to fly extremely well in stormy weather, once setting a world record during a hailstorm. However, a storm ultimately led to his death.
Peck’s Final Flight
Peck’s final flight was in 1912, just one year after becoming a pilot. Peck was representing the United States in the International Gordon Bennett Trophy Race in Chicago. On a windy and stormy evening before the race, Peck took off on what would be his final flight. During his ascent, the motor on Peck’s plane came loose. His plane went into a steep and rapid descent and Peck was unable to pull up before the plane hit the ground. He was 23 years old when he died.
Why then, with all of these accomplishments, is Peck’s name not up there with the Wright Brothers, Lindbergh, and other early pilots in aviation? Good question. Peck died only one year after he started flying. You could argue that he did not fly long enough to achieve name recognition. However, you could also argue that given all of the accomplishments listed above were all done in less than a year, Peck’s name should be much more widely known. Especially in his home state of West Virginia.
And for what it is worth. In 1923, 12 years after Paul Peck passed away, a man by the name of Charles Yeager was born in Myra, West Virginia. So, I would say the mountain state definitely has a seat at the table when it comes to pioneering modern aviation.
Information for this article was gathered from the Charleston Gazette and West Virginia Tourism.