A large piece of land in Welch currently sits unused as people consider the future use of the land.
Hidden in the mountains of McDowell county is a flat spot large enough to land a plane…because, well, that’s what it was used for.
“It used to be one of the busiest places around. I mean, the traffic was constant going to the airport,” says Welch Mayor Reba Honaker.
Years ago, the Welch airport was a hub of activity. Multiple members of the community kept their own private aircraft there.
“They had several planes – I don’t remember how many – but several planes and several hangars,” said Honaker.
As time passed, fewer and fewer people were using the airport. Eventually, the gates were shut.
Large X’s have been painted on both ends of the runway. This lets planes know that the airport is closed.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, a closed status is not typically permanent.
“I was privileged enough to go meet the helicopter, so that was interesting…it being closed, though, is for that reason. I don’t want to abandon it,” said Honaker.
Once an airport is declared ‘abandoned,’ it is nearly impossible to return the runway to active service.
Right now, the site is used by a group of people who fly radio controlled planes with special permission from the city. Otherwise, the airport is off limits.
“The airport is closed to anyone going on it for the simple reason of insurance,” Honaker told us.
While the airport’s fate is remains uncertain, Honaker does not want to see the property go to waste.
“I would love to see something happen up there because it’s just too gorgeous of a piece of land to just sit there,” said Honaker.
Though this historic airport nestled deep in McDowell County might be quiet for now…many hope the sound of engines and the sight of planes soaring high above Welch will return once again.