Like many American dreams of the 1940's, Portsmouth Airport (now "Hampton Roads Executive Airport," "HREA") was conceived by the GI Bill. A group of local investors, including pilot businessman Captain Henry Pascale, took advantage of the GI Bill of Rights, which provided payment of flying lessons for GI's returning from war.
Capt. Pascale was a graduate of the University of Nebraska law school and a veteran of World War I. He was a bomber pilot (biplane). His tie to this area is traced to Langley Field, where he was stationed in the 1930's. While assigned to Langley Field, he met and married Frances Abbot, a school teacher from Newport News. Capt. Pascale would continue to figure prominently in the history of the airport for years.
Unfortunately, the airport business was not profitable for the original group of investors and the operation was shut down and a foreclosure auction was scheduled. Protecting his financial investment, Capt. Pascale attended the auction and, ultimately, was the high bidder, purchasing the airport (less than 200 acres) for $25,000. At that time, the airport had 3 grass runways and gravel roads and a few light aircraft (Piper Cubs and Aeroncas) were based on site. For decades, the airport continued to service private pilots and general aviation.
More than 60 years later, the airport would again face hardships, and would again be revived by pilot businessmen. Owned by a developer with no interest in aviation, airport improvements were postponed and when the owner faced serious medical issues, the airport was forced into bankruptcy.
Pilot businessmen, Steve Fox and Andy Gibbs, the principals of Virginia Aviation Associates, L.L.C., bought the airport through bankruptcy proceedings in May 2000. Now consisting of 634 acres, improved with 2 paved runways, various taxiways, 150 T-hangars, 22 corporate hangars and 2 office/terminal buildings, HREA ranks in the top five busiest non-military airports in Virginia. With 217-based aircraft, HREA is currently designated as a reliever airport for Norfolk International Airport.
Fox and Gibbs are committed to airport growth and improvement. Their plans include acquisition of land to expand the existing runway to 5350 feet with associated taxiways, a new terminal building, air freight facilities and the construction of additional hangars. Their goal is to turn HREA into a model for privately owned general aviation airports.
The goal of Hampton Roads Executive Airport is to provide a professional, safe and friendly aviation environment for our tenant based and transient corporate aircraft, aviation service providers and recreational pilots.
Virginia Aviation Associates, L.L.C. and its Professional Engineering Consulting firms Campbell & Paris Engineers, L.R. Kimball & Associates, and Talbert & Bright are currently pursuing the long-range plan for airport facilities including: land acquisition, development of a new runway, installation of an ILS and WAAS, design and construction of a new executive terminal, and construction of new hangars to improve safety and efficiency of the airport and attract business opportunities to the region while accommodating forecasted demand for General Aviation facilities.
Virginia Aviation Associates, L.L.C. purchased the 230-acre airport from Gateway L.L.C. in May of 2000. The owners used $4.7 million supported by the FAA and DOAV to purchase an additional 404 acres in June of 2001 for construction of the new runway, and for future development of the airport.
The owners are pursuing the development of a replacement runway for Runway 10/28. The new runway is intended to support both recreational and business users alike.
The proposed runway will be 1350 feet longer than the existing runway. To support this future growth the purchasing of land includes a sufficient buffer area to protect airport and surrounding communities from incompatible land uses. The anticipated construction of the runway will be within the next 3 years.
Recent accomplishments include finalizing the airport's current Airport Layout Plan in 2006, receiving a Finding Of No Significant Impact (FONSI) from the FAA and COE in 2007, finalizing the terminal study in 2007, erection of 56 or 72,000 SF of T-hangars in 2007, commencing terminal construction in 2010 and its Grand Opening on May 6, 2011, erection of 11 or 43,000SF of corporate hangars in 2010/11, and commencing new runway construction in February of 2011, with runway completion expected late 2012.