Interview with President Jerry Falwell on Lynchburg's Morning Show (Freedom Aviation)
“We’re very excited about the purchase of Virginia Aviation,” said Ret. U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Dave Young, dean of the Liberty University School of Aeronautics and president of Freedom Aviation. “From my perspective, this is a tremendous opportunity for the public and for the aviation community, and a great move for the city of Lynchburg, for Freedom Aviation, and for Liberty University. We want to build an aviation center of excellence that rivals anything in the country and anything in aviation higher education.”
He said that rather than competing internally with another FBO, Freedom Aviation can now better equip the airport to compete for customers on a regional level.
“That’s our goal, to draw interest to Lynchburg Regional Airport,” Young said. “Merging the two operations and taking the strengths of each one puts us in a much better competitive position than having more than one fixed-base operator. We want to be competing regionally, competing up and down the East Coast. This merger will increase our business and enhance economic development for the city of Lynchburg and for Central Virginia.”
Airports in Roanoke and Charlottesville operate successfully with one FBO.
Liberty University President Jerry Falwell talked about the merger and future plans for the School of Aeronautics, as well as other campus developments Friday in an interview on Lynchburg’s Morning Show with Mari and Brian on WIQO (FM 100.9). (Read a full transcription of the interview.)
While the terms of the sale are final, in a 5-1 vote Tuesday night, reported on by The News & Advance, Lynchburg City Council delayed Freedom Aviation’s request to reassign Virginia Aviation’s lease with the airport, which was renewed by the city last year.
“The lease terminated with the sale, but we will be continuing it on a month-by-month basis to operate just like Virginia Aviation did before,” Young said. “It doesn’t affect the sale at all. We’re going to be working with the city to work out an agreement with regard to the facilities and the lease. The final organizational structure is to be determined. That’s all on the table for discussion.”
On Monday, the day before the sale and the City Council hearing on the lease, Freedom Aviation offered to increase rent payments by nearly $60,000 per year for the next four years, enhance airport facilities by $100,000 each year, and make additional service upgrades.
“We took the opportunity to offer the city some incentives for this because we wanted it to be a win-win, not only for us, but for the airport and the city, and we think we’ve done that,” Young said, noting the integration of the two FBOs should not cause any disruption in service at the airport. “There will be no break in service, no risk to aircraft owners, We’re seeking ways to enhance service to everyone who uses this airport.”
Falwell, who also serves as chairman of Freedom Aviation, is confident an agreement will be reached to enable the airport and FBO to operate most efficiently to serve the community, and for Liberty SOA to adequately prepare pilots and maintenance technicians for service in the expanding industry.
“We are grateful and encouraged by the comments of Mayor (Michael) Gillette and the other members of City Council at (Tuesday) night’s hearing,” Falwell said. “They took action that protected the public interest but also provided Liberty with the necessary time to negotiate a new arrangement that will be mutually beneficial to the city and the university. I believe this is another opportunity for Liberty to create an invaluable asset for the city while advancing our own educational mission.”
Liberty’s School of Aeronautics is in the process of establishing Flight Training Affiliates (FTA) at airports in Virginia and across the U.S. In Virginia, FTAs are already operating in Newport News, Manassas, Leesburg, Warrenton, and Stafford. The Valparaiso, Indiana, FTA begins operation this month with long-term plans to open more FTAs across the country over the next year. This unique educational model will allow students residing near Liberty Flight Training Affiliates to complete much of their college coursework online while doing their flight training at their local airport. Liberty’s operation of Freedom Aviation and Virginia Aviation will create an opportunity for students at FTAs to also spend time in residency at the School of Aeronautics’ Lynchburg Regional Airport campus to learn by participating in the operation of a full-service general aviation, charter, and aircraft maintenance business.
“It will create the perfect laboratory for teaching airport and aviation management,” Falwell said.