Stanly County Airport director to retire
Published 5:30 pm Thursday, April 27, 2023
He has spent much of his life helping to build up the aviation business in Stanly County.
Now, after 5.5 years as the director of the Stanly County Airport, Ken Swaringen has announced his retirement.
Turning 72 this year, Swaringen said his entire working career “one way or another” was working with the airport.
With the new National Guard training center coming in, he said, “I don’t want to hand that to somebody in the middle. I’d rather for them to be beginning of a lot of it.”
Swaringen said he still wants to stay involved working in some way. “Whatever I can do to support the airport, I’ll certainly do.”
Having been involved with the airport since the mid 1980s, Swaringen said his mantra coming in “was to leave it better than I found it, to try and improve something every single day.”
The airport, under Swaringen’s efforts, has new LED lighting and vehicles, along with improved markings on the runways. The beacon tower has been upgraded and a new lighting system for the terminal was built in 2010.
Swaringen noted in a meeting with the Stanly County Economic Development Commission board the impact of the airport on the county. A recent study of 2021 showed the airport generated $133 million, placing it among the top 12 or so out of 62 general aviation airports.
Stanly’s airport provides $6.43 million in state and local tax revenue through hangar rentals and fuel sales.
The airport supports 509 jobs throughout the region, and has full fire, crash and rescue services through a partnership with the N.C. Air National Guard stationed at it.
A shortage of hangars is one problem facing all small airports in the state, including Stanly, according to Swaringen. All the hangars at Stanly have waiting lists, and plans are for more hangar space on the northern end of the facility.
However, Swaringen said, neither the Federal Aviation Administration nor the state will provide funds for hangars.
Swaringen said he had thoroughly enjoyed his time at the airport, adding for him it was “the ties I’ve had from back when we were developing for the Air National Guard. This is a good way to close out my working career. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
“I wish I had 15 more years to give to it, but it’s time to give to my family.”