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Interview with Jon Rosborough, February 20, 2008 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Jon Rosborough, February 20, 2008
February 20, 2008
John Rosborough has been the acting director of the Wilmington International Airport since 2002, having worked there since 1997 as a consultant and then a director. He discusses all facets of a busy airport in this interview, including funding, security, Fixed Base Operations, non commercial traffic, FAA flight plans, corporate and celebrity aircraft, and training for TSA, or Homeland Defense employees.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Rosborough, Jon Interviewer: Jones, Carroll Date of Interview: 2/19/2008 Series: SENC Notables Length 60 minutes

Jones: Today is February the 19th, 2008, I'm Carroll Jones with Chris Malpass for the Randall Library Oral History Project and this afternoon we're pleased to have as our interview guest Jon Rosborough, Director of Wilmington International Airport. Good afternoon Jon and thanks so much for coming to visit us.

Rosborough: Good afternoon, Carroll, and it's good to be here.

Jones: I hope, I got-- you are the Airport Director, so that's right, oh good. Let's start with just talk about yourself a little bit, where you're from, anything you wanna share with us and just to find out what kind of education you had that brought you into this kind of business.

Rosborough: Okay well I was born and raised in a small town called Newburg, New York which is about 60 miles due north on the Hudson River from New York City and is located about 10 miles north of where the United States Military Academy is, West Point.

Jones: Were you on the river?

Rosborough: We're on the Hudson River, it's a very pretty country and I graduated high school and I came to Winston, Salem and attended and graduated from Wake Forest University in the class of 1967 and then I was in the ROTC Program and was ready to go into the service back then, they had the Vietnam War. I was in Army Air Defense Artillery and I had to, you had to go through some specialized training, so my active duty didn't start for about 9 months. So I went back to Newburg and looked for a job and I got into hospital work.

Jones: Oh my goodness!

Rosborough: I got into the personnel field.

Jones: How did you happen to do that?

Rosborough: Well it was I think like many things it's all in who you know and my mother was the Executive Secretary of a local bank in Newburg and she had as one of her customers, waiting to see the CEO, the head of the hospital in New York, which was St. Luke's Hospital and they told me they were looking at hiring some people in personnel. She threw out my name, he wanted a very large loan, I'm sure that got me the interview and I went into that field and it changed my entire life and I stayed there for about 9 months and went into the military and--

Jones: When you say hospital work, what kind of hospital work was it?

Rosborough: It was in personnel administration, they now call it Human Resource Management but back then it was personnel and so I got involved with setting up personnel records and doing some interviewing and that sort of thing and it was great for me just out of college I had really no background or experience whatsoever and it really, if you were to learn it really helped changed my entire life. So I stayed there 9 months and did a fairly good job I guess because after my military career I was asked to come back and so I did two years in the military active duty and then I did 4 years reserve but I went back into the hospital field and then earned my way up in positions to where I became the Director of Personnel for that hospital and I did that and then advanced up through. Then they started using corporate titles, Vice President and that sort of thing and I did that for 12 years. And then in 1980 I applied for a job here in Wilmington, North Carolina with New Hanover Memorial Hospital, which is now New Hanover Regional Medical Center and--

Jones: Why did you do that, from New York to North Carolina?

Rosborough: When did I do that?

Jones: Why?

Rosborough: Why did I do that?

Jones: Yes.

Rosborough: Well a couple of reasons, one just started raising a family, I had a 9 year old daughter and a 10 month old son and--

Jones: You really spaced for college didn't you?

Rosborough: We did and so we just decided I liked it and, you know, wanted to come down to North Carolina, get out of New York State. We visited down here the Outer Banks and my wife said she would only leave if we could get a job on the beach and she never thought that would happen and I applied for a job through a magazine, the American Medical Association Journal and which you rarely get jobs because it takes so long to put the ad in and so long to be responded to and anyway I was fortunate to earn an interview down here and I ended up coming down as the Director of Personnel New Hanover Memorial Hospital. And I stayed in the healthcare business there for 15 years and basically then trickled up the scale and became a VP of Operations and that was kind of an all encompassing position where I was over several different departments to include Human Resource Management, the Emergency Department, Social Work and Environmental Services and so forth.

Jones: This is really during their growing period.

Rosborough: It was during the growing period and I also got into some technology and distance learning projects and telemedicine and that was very interesting and got involved with that and then in 1995 the hospital as will many different healthcare organizations was going through some restructuring and we did the same and so we put together, we wanted to under the CEOs direction wanted to go ahead and terminate 300 positions and legally you can only do that by job class, you can't go around and say "I want you to stay, you not to stay and so forth" and so I took advantage of that opportunity, took an early retirement which combined age.

Jones: That is 1995?

Rosborough: 1995, actually December, I'd actually retired the first of January in 1996 and it was a combination of age and years of service that equated to 65 which I had, 15 years and age 50 and I was able to get an early out with that and then I started my own business which basically was to administratively help small business and primarily in the field of personnel, human resource management. A lot of small businesses, which is now becoming a life blood for this community where they have less than 20, 25 employees and the very good technicians in the field or their business from which they're in but they still have to comply with certain EEO laws and so forth and under the federal, state and local government. So I was in there and helping them out doing some administrative work and one of my clients turned out to be the airport and so I came from one service sector and got into another. Now I was a consultant there and one of my first jobs was that and I knew I was involved with several boards and several community activities at the time and so I got to know some people that were members of the Airport Authority.

Jones: What year was this?

Rosborough: This was probably about 1997, it was 1997 and so my first employment was with them as a consultant, was to go out and hire an Airport Director and I did that, I did an executive search for them, which I had to do a lot of those in my healthcare administration background--

Jones: I'm sure you did, I'm sure.

Rosborough: But I was over physician recruitment, I was in charge of physician relations and we employed over 30-- back then 3500 employees when I worked here at New Hanover and now there are over 4500 employees and so and we had about a 15% turnover, so you had-- we were hiring 4 or 500 people every year. So I went out and I took on that opportunity and I went out and we were able to find a very good person who came in here and he ended up coming to me a year later and saying "Look I can no longer afford your consulting fees, how about you come on board with me at the airport as my Administrative Director and I will put you on our benefits, do you have any benefits?" I said "Well no I don't" and so that's how I got into the aviation business and then the gentleman sustained a heart attack and had quadruple bypass surgery and so he left and so then the board put me as an Acting Airport Director and asked me to go out and begin a second search and I did and so, you know, the acting position of any job as you know is kind of like running a house with the option to buy. You find every reason why you don't wanna buy it and--

Jones: And you knew the job.

Rosborough: I knew the job but I was also retired and then I also delved off when I got out of the hospital, I'm into health and fitness and I got into purchasing a couple of Gold's Gyms around the area--

Jones: Did you really?

Rosborough: and so there's 2 other partners and I, we have several Gold's Gyms, in the North Carolina, a little bit in South Carolina. So I thought well nothing ventured, nothing gained so I was able at my age and my kids are grown to take risk and so I just decided if I'm gonna be acting, we're gonna operate this as if I had it full time and I did. In the meantime the board went through looked at various applicants and decided to leave me in that position on a month to month basis and I've been in that way ever since.

Jones: Seriously, month to month even now?

Rosborough: Even now and it's kind of like a joke, I hope it is and because of the situation and it's been a very rewarding experience. I am married, I have a beautiful wife and I have two beautiful children that are both grown and both out of college.

Jones: Fortunate for you.

Rosborough: Yes and I have 3 beautiful grandchildren that just moved back into town a year ago, so now I'm beginning to be able to become a grandparent.

Jones: And you're enjoying that?

Rosborough: I'm enjoying that, so that's kinda where I am and that's it.

Jones: Well that's amazing at how you got from Newburg, New York down to Wilmington and certainly entrenched here. Alright so actually when would you say well of course you started becoming an Acting Director as early as 1995 basically than that?

Rosborough: Well it was a little bit later than that I was started working with them in a consulting basis in '97 meaning the airport and then I went in '98, I was hired as the Administrative Director and then I elevated to what they call a Deputy Director, which is equivalent in the corporate world to COO, now remember this is a very small organization so titles are big and you wear multiple hats. And then I became the Acting Director, I think it was 2001, it was when the Airport Director sustained his heart attack and then in 2002 I was appointed the Director on a month to month basis and so I've been doing that ever since.

Jones: I can't believe that, I find that amusing, I'm sorry.

Rosborough: Yes it is, it's an interesting, it's a nice story, I enjoy telling it, now that I'm still on the job.

Jones: Who do you answer to, do you have a board?

Rosborough: Yes we have the airport is owned by the county, the Hanover County Board of Commissioners and in the 1990 the county decided to relieve itself of any financial obligation in terms of subsidizing the airport which it had done up until that time with funding and they appointed independent Airport Authority and so to answer your question I work for that Airport Authority. The Airport Authority has to be and the airport now has to be self sustaining, we do not receive any subsidation or financial support from the county. However the county still owns the land, they are the ones that are responsible for hiring, not hiring, appointing the Airport Authority Board, which there are 5 members.

Jones: The county does this?

Rosborough: The county does this and they can serve a 4 year term and under the bylaws they are permitted to serve 2 consecutive terms and then there are term limits and they have to get off the board, they cannot be reappointed.

Jones: I have a question that I'm sure is needed to be answered at this time. If the county, if you're self sustaining and the county has really relinquished any kind of funding and so forth, why are they the ones who appoint the board or is it necessary to do it that way?

Rosborough: It is, both, it is necessary to do it that way under the state statutes of North Carolina in terms of the Airport Authority, because the people do not wanna give total-- giving that entity away, number one, number two is that the county was deeded that property which is about 1600 acres back in 1948. The airport prior to that, we were an airport, we were founded by the way in 19 and Memorial Day which was May 30th of 1928. So we are now celebrating our 80th anniversary and when World War II occurred, the Army Air Guard took over the airport and--

Jones: That was when it was Bluethenthal though was it?

Rosborough: That was Bluethenthal Field and so then in 1948 the Air, Army Air Guard dated the property back to New Hanover County and they became the stewards and then they ran the airport as the Piedmont Airlines became the first airline out of there and they were founded here in, you know, the first flight originated in Wilmington and went up into Cincinnati, Ohio for the first time and then we, and that was like that up until 1989, 1990 when the Hanover Country Board of Commissioners decided to go with an independent Airport Authority which was done a fair amount across the country and aviation was very regulated and the county was growing and they just didn't want to have to have another entity drawing down in terms of funding. Yet they still wanted to be able to maintain control so that's how they did that and that's why the state statute allows that to happen.

Jones: Alright can you take us through a scenario and you don't have to go into a whole lot of detail unless you want to on what it takes to-- I know that you have to apply-- any airport or whatever has to apply for certain lanes, airport lanes or routes or airlines, is that dependent upon population, dependent upon traffic, need, all the above and because you talked about Piedmont, which I well remember then there's been tremendous growth in the past what 10 years particularly, how does this happen?

Rosborough: How it happens is we put together as many businesses do a strategic operating plan and that consists of several components and one of those components is what we call Air Service Development. When I first came on board as the acting, I was asked out to lunch by the head of the Wilmington Industrial Development and the head of the Chamber of Commerce and I thought that was very nice. Well it was to a point but they made it very clear that the airport was not meeting the needs of the citizens of this community and they had a study that they conducted with 25 businesses in the community, covering a variety of demographics and one of which was transportation and you subset that down into Air Service and from an economic development standpoint they felt that the airport needed to provide greater service in order for them to be able to attract larger businesses to the community and so what we did is we put together an Air Service Development Plan and what we do is every airline that flies has to provide statistics, as to passenger numbers, dollars, what they paid, where they go in terms of destinations and then what we do is pay a service to extrapolate out that data that pertains strictly to ILM Wilmington International Airport and we define our top ten destinations and then when we see where they are, then we go out to different airlines. We will see well which airlines are on the East Coast, which ones fly into for example and New York is our number one destination. Which one flies into that, Philadelphia's a top destination, Atlanta's a top destination. In terms of being a destination, not a pass through where you go to Atlanta and going over to Europe or go to Atlanta going out to southwest or wherever you're going, it is a final destination point and then we go and we talk to the airlines and we show them the data and we show them and they look at passenger load the number of people who get on the plane and then they look at the revenue per passenger mile and that's after expenses and then they look at, you know, so it gets into the demand, into the need of service. And then they will take it under advisement and then they look at what it costs, what they call the cost per passenger mile. What do we charge, we get landing fees, we're basically landlords for the Airport Authority and we lease space and so we charge landing fees, we charge rental space for counter rentals, if they put their tugs on the apron etc, etc and that's what we.

Jones: Excuse me, can I interrupt you? Does each airline use their own personnel for servicing, for loading, unloading and that sort of thing?

Rosborough: They did, yes they each have their own personnel. There were basically several components, one is when you go up, let's say to buy a ticket today, you can do that online or go through a travel agent but when you go up to buy a ticket those people at the ticket counter are owned by or employees of the independent airline.

Jones: How about mechanics and stuff?

Rosborough: They don't have mechanics on site, they have mechanics at what they call their hubs, so the nearest mechanic per say is in Charlotte. For example for US Air and it's in Atlanta which is the hub for Delta. However we have what we call fixed based operators and they have mechanics, these are people that provide services to all other type of aviation aircraft, whether it's privately owned aircraft, corporate aircraft, military aircraft and they provide fueling services, storage facilities as well as they have mechanics on duty. So the airline would outsource that and if they had a mechanical problem, they would go to the FBO, call the mechanic over, then that mechanic is on the horn with the mechanic at either Atlanta or in Charlotte for our two respective airlines now and they would go through some problem solving and if it couldn't be relieved, most of the time it's just minor things, a light comes on saying looks like it's overheating and then we'll check that out and do a check and tester and find that, you know, a wire had come loose or something like that and if that's not the case then they have to ground the aircraft, reposition the passengers on other flights and fly a mechanic in at the next flight coming in.

Jones: There are so many different components, people don't stop to think about it.

Rosborough: There really is just the simple answer for your question is, is based on our community needs and we look at what our community wants and we have 73% of our traffic is business and 27% is leisure and so we're are those business travelers going and they wanna go to the northeast and so that's what we've done, we've been very successful in the last couple of years getting nonstop service into New York, Philadelphia, Cincinnati and then into Atlanta and or course into Charlotte. And now into Orlando but that's a leisure traffic not business traffic.

Jones: So if somebody wants to leave from ILM and go west, they would have to then go to either-- do you go to Washington?

Rosborough: We don't go to Washington nonstop so what they would do, they could go into Philadelphia and go out west.

Jones: Or Atlanta.

Rosborough: They go to Atlanta and go out west, Charlotte go out west or go to Cincinnati and go out west.

Jones: And now to go to Europe you can leave from Atlanta right?

Rosborough: You can go to Europe, you can go from Atlanta, you can go from Philadelphia and you go from Cincinnati.

Jones: Mmm-hmm. From Cincinnati?

Rosborough: Yes, Cincinnati has 6 nonstop flights a day over into Europe, into Munich, they go into the United Kingdom and to London, they go into Paris. So some of your major destinations, going to Rome.

Jones: Yes, well I have a good friend who uses the Atlanta Road and will do so again soon.

Rosborough: Yes. I've used that myself.

Jones: And prefers coming into ILM. Would you talk about? You touched on a couple of things I was gonna ask you about, military, touch and go, private planes, security for this being an election year I'm sure we're gonna have planes coming and out of here for half an hour, an hour, half the day, whatever. What happens? How much advance do you need, give us a scenario of what will go on, let's say with a quick stopover, we'll start with that.

Rosborough: With like a political stop for example or military?

Jones: Something like that.

Rosborough: Yeah what we do is they will call in and most likely they will contact or they will contact the FAA, Federal Aviation Association Tower, we have a FAA tower on hand and they're the ones that guide the planes in, in landing and takeoff and so they will check in with them and saying okay we're coming down. Then they also will check in with the local law enforcement agencies because they have to have the protection and particularly if it's a political and in the past, you know, Vice President Gore used to and of course vice president, not vice president, John Edwards, Senator Edwards have homes here on figure 8 and so they would come in. I know when Senator Dohl came in and Senator Burrow came in, they flew in, then they were brought in and then had to have all the police here and especially if they had for example Dohl, Senator's Dohl and Burrow had Vice President Cheney here, well then he brings a very large entourage of security personnel and they have to come in and do a sweep, you know, beforehand, they come in 24 hours in advance and they cordon off a sector and so forth and they bring in various security personnel that are there in the event something attempts to go sour, they are ready to take immediate action.

Jones: Do they use special runways to come in so that you're not interfering?

Rosborough: No well we only have two and they use one of our runways but what they can do is close the air space down for temporary-- til they land and then they cordon off that section. They will not go into our gated area, they will go off to the FBO area for example and conduct rallies, if they're just gonna be there for a short time and then take off or if they're gonna be there for a couple of hours and they're going into town or whatever. So that happens but for the non commercial traffic, everyone-- most people think that all we are about is commercial traffic which is your airlines, your US Air, your Delta now or Legion Airlines that provide service. But we really have quite a bit of service, what we called general aviation and that is all the other type of aviation. There's commercial air service, there's general aviation air service and there's military air service and we have all three of those components that utilize our airport.

Jones: Does private ownership come under one of those categories?

Rosborough: Yes the private aircraft, the corporate aircraft come under that and that's what I said before, the fixed base operator, the FBO they provide hangar service or storage facilities, they provide tie downs if they're not gonna use-- put their plane in a hangar. They provide fuel services, they provide food services, they provide car rental services when they come in and so they provide a full range of services, mechanical, if they have to do repairs.

Jones: What does FBO stand for?

Rosborough: Fixed base operator, in other words they will lease space from the airport, again that we are landlords, any land that we can lease that's money that goes into our operating budget and so they provide that service. We have two of those now out there at the airport and they probably handle about 60,000 operations a year coming in and out of the airport. We have over 85,000, 20,000 of those are the air, the commercial air service, the rest is all into the general aviation or the military and we also get the Presidential fleet that come in here and they do what they call T&Gs touch and go's and you'll see the Vice President's plane, that's the long sleek 757 flying around and- and they'll come in and go down and touch the ramp and then go back off and then they come back in and they'll go back down and they do about ten goes around and they do not interfere with the commercial traffic. If a plane is coming in or taking off then they'll go out over the ocean and wait and then they come back in and do it again.

Jones: Does the military do that also?

Rosborough: The military does it an awful lot, we have not seen, our military traffic has dropped off a lot in the last couple of years for obvious reasons, they're deployed overseas but being with the Air Force installation and just outside of Fayetteville of course the military installation, Marine installation here in Bragg and up in Lejeune that that makes it very convenient for them to come in both with helicopters, fixed wing and rotor ring.

Jones: That's an awful lot going on.

Rosborough: There is an awful lot going on.

Jones: And you have to be aware of every single one of these things?

Rosborough: Yes we have to be aware of that at all times and we have planes sometimes that will come in and they go to put their landing gear down and these are mostly non-- these are not commercial, these are mostly the general aviation and their light doesn't come on that their landing.

Jones: Now general aviation is that privately owned?

Rosborough: That is private, that is charter, that is corporate owned like PPD for example owns their own 2 or 3 corporate jets, Image Product owns corporate jets and GE as an example and they keep their aircraft out there and so they don't fly commercially for their top people and so when they come into Atlanta they see for example that their landing gear appears to be down but their light's not showing it's down, then they will do what they call a fly by to the tower and say "Okay is my landing gear down because it doesn't show?" And they'll say "Yes it's down" well just because it's down and the light's not on, is it in locked position. So then they will go out and they'll go around and expend most of their fuel and then they'll come in and do a landing and that's what we get with we call an airport alert. Alert 1, 2, 3 and 4, 1 is the least, 4 is the max, that means you have an air crash right on the property and thank god we haven't had one of those in many, many, many, many years and most of them are alert 1s and alert 2s where they'll get, you know, some minor problems in the cockpit, you know, they'll think they smell smoke and again it's a wire burning and they land safely and we have our fire truck's we are responsible for all fire and safety out there at the airport. We have our own independent police force, we have our own independent fire force.

Jones: Now that I didn't know.

Rosborough: And so they are what we call the first responders.

Jones: And they work for the airport?

Rosborough: For the airport.

Jones: So that's independent police and fire?

Rosborough: Yes and they are the same company, certified police that you have for a state trooper or for a Wilmington Police Department or the Sheriff's Department, they have to go through the same training and background and additionally we have to train them into aviation security with all that going on and also they have to be first responders as fire fighters in the event that a plane goes down.

Jones: These are well trained people.

Rosborough: They are very well trained people and so we call them Public Safety Officers where they're company police as well as first responders.

Jones: Amazing, the average person has no idea. How about private planes on a smaller scale without being well I don't know, whatever that corporations have, probably from the small Lear Jet on up, do they have to follow flight plan well in advance before take it out. They can't just say after dinner one night "Oh let's go for a ride?"

Rosborough: Right, yes they have to file a flight plan and everyone that takes off has to do that with the FAA and the reason for that is and if they have to abort while in flight and if god forbid they go down then you can trace it back from whence they originated, you know, and then they'll say "Okay we have a plane that went down, it was going in this direction" and they will send that out to all the airports and we'll say "Well gee we had flight 1234 that took off 30 minutes ago heading in this direction and then you will see markings on the plane, on these small planes and these are mostly on the tail and or the back of the plane and those are obviously their identification code, sort of like our Social Security number and so if a plane goes down they can see well this number belongs to and it all has to be registered like a license plate on a car, who it belongs to and they can trace it back that way and everyone has to file a flight plan because the airspace is becoming very, very congested and that is one of the major problems that we are facing today in the aviation industry both on a national scale and on a regional scale is the airspace problems and we have a very antiquated system right now that has served us extremely well in terms of an old radar system and now we're getting into more of what they call the next generation technology for aviation, it has a 44 billion dollar price tag and that's why there's so much congestion going into and out of what they call the top 30 major airports in the country, you know, the New York, the Philadelphia, the Atlanta, the Dallas, the LAX, the Los Vegas, the Denver's and everyone wants to go to-- even if you leave at a small airport like us, they all wanna go to those major hubs and they become very, very congested and so for safety reasons they have to separate those planes, so the more planes getting into the air which is now happening, it is causing more delays and, you know, particularly around Philadelphia. Philadelphia you got one of the worst weather.

Jones: I understand that this is really the hell of world airports.

Rosborough: Well it is in the top 3 in the country and it is for two reasons, one is it's a very widely utilized airport in the country in the top 10 and number 2 it has one of the worst records in the country for weather, whether it's not just snow but in electrical storms and that sort of thing, fog, heavy fog coming in and that causes all kinds of delays and then once you have one delay it's like a bottle neck and then it's like a domino effect all the way down the food chain and people come here to look out the window and say "It's a beautiful sunny day, why can't I take off for Philadelphia?" Well because they have bad weather up there and then when the weather clears, I look on the TV and they'll see on the weather station, well the weather is clear in it, yes but there's been planes riding around waiting to land so no use sending you up there and getting involved in that congestion. So what they do what you call a ground hold at the point of origin. So we get a lot of planes sitting out on our apron waiting to take off if they to, could they wait from the gate because they have other planes coming in bringing people in and so that's kind of mix that you have and you have to watch over that and it makes it very, very interesting.

Jones: I've been in one of those lines waiting to take off and I've been in a plane that circled Denver for over an hour and the pilot was trying to be funny so he's singing songs and he's talking about "Don't worry folks, that plane that you can see out the window and wave to those people, they're nice people, oops we're too close." (laugh)

Rosborough: Yeah and what do you do in those situations, you know, because the people are getting frustrated and it's understandable but again it gets into the same old thing of demand-- I mean we're finding the same congestion on our road systems, you know, you find the same congestion in your waterway systems with all the boat congestion and so forth.

Jones: I downloaded this, although I couldn't print out this morning, I Googled, ILM and it was right up to stuff, it had the names of new airline that's gonna be in here.

Rosborough: Allegiant Airlines.

Jones: Yeah and it had on that one, it had little lanes pointing all over the country from point to point and I thought this area here along the East Coast has got to be a nightmare, it's got to be an absolute nightmare and I tried to print out all the lanes bit once I took my finger off this button it wouldn't show, you know. How many people a year do you suppose come or you probably have an idea, come in and out of Wilmington?

Rosborough: Well I'm glad you asked, we just had another record setting year, 801,423 people flew in and out of Wilmington in the calendar year, 2007 and that is inbound and outbound so that is a record year. In 19--in 2007 we had 645,000 people so that was a 25% over the previous calendar year.

Jones: What do you attribute this to, is it business and visitors or is it just?

Rosborough: It's mostly business, like I said before, 73% of our traffic is business and 27% is leisure and again, you know, we are what they call an O&D airport, which means we're a point of origin or a point of destination. We're not like Charlotte where you pass through, you fly into Charlotte, you get off at one gate, you go to another because you're going to Denver and you get on another plane and you take off and so you wait for a period of time. In Wilmington you come in, you get on a plane and you're going somewhere or you're flying into Wilmington and that's the last point where you get off the plane and you do your business or you're home and so that's how that works and we attribute that primarily to the more people that use the Airport the higher the numbers that is one of the statistics that the airlines use when we go out and say, you need to come and fly out of Wilmington. "Well why should I do that?" And as I said before they look at several factors, they look at their cost, they look at their potential revenue generation, but they look at the loads, the loads mean the number of people that get on and off the planes and we'd have one of the most beautiful communities around but that's fine but that doesn't create business and what does is you must have the numbers and you must have the dollars and the cents and you keep the cost down. And I think we've been doing a fairly good job of doing that and our community has been very supportive, we've been putting a lot of effort into our marketing to share with our customers and with our community.

Jones: Advertising's good.

Rosborough: What we do and what we have to offer and we basically say check us out, you know, we are not going to be-- our two biggest competitors are Myrtle Beach and Raleigh, Durham and we're not going to be a Myrtle Beach. They have about 18 to 20% business and 80% leisure and we can understand why and we're never gonna get that way, number one Raleigh, Durham they just have about 4 to 6 million passengers a year, we're never gonna get up to that high but people can travel two hours if they don't find a very competitive price. So we're never going to be as a low fare carrier or low fare airport in comparison to them but if we make it more competitive then we say "But it's very convenient."

Jones: But you can still drive up to the front door of your airport.

Rosborough: You can and it's very convenient and you know, you when you have the brown holes like the example we used before with Philadelphia and I don't mean to be constantly picking on them but let's say we do that, well if you drove up to Raleigh, you couldn't get into Philadelphia either because the same weather conditions prevail at your destination point. So here you are up in Raleigh, 2 hours, 2 hours and a half away, then what do you do, at least in Wilmington you sit there, you got a judgment point and you say "Well do I get on the next plane or do I go out tomorrow and I go back home in ten minutes or I go back to my office" and that makes a big difference because in business time is money and so that is what we have to offer and I think that is what people come to us for. We now have decent aircraft meaning all jets, we have more service to our top ten destinations and we have more competitive airfares now that bring people now into our market.

Jones: As I explained to you early on, the reason for this particular Oral History Program is based on the phenomenal growth in this area over the past 10 years and you've just explained what's happened. Now I'm gonna ask you two things, security and the other thing is obviously you project ahead because this area is not going to stop growing, we project, we, I use that very loosely. It has been projected that from Jacksonville to Myrtle Beach it's going to be like a Baltimore to Washington or New York to Washington corridor. People will live some place and particularly if they have that flying bridge put up over the river. So obviously and more and more people are working. I know several people who work here during the week or spend one day a week or one day every two weeks up in their mother ship company wherever that is and that seems to be a thing of the future particularly with the electronics we have available. How do you as head of that airport take a look let's say obviously you project 5 years down the road, 10 years down the road?

Rosborough: What we do is we take the same demographics you just alluded to and you're exactly right there is going to be a corridor of people, businesses, here going between Myrtle Beach and Jacksonville, we want to be that regional airport that can provide the air service necessary for them to continue to carry out what they do, particularly from the business standpoint but also from a leisure standpoint. So we make certain projections for example we project that our growth is gonna be about 4 1/2% per year over the next ten years and we look at that maybe a little bit on the conservative side but and then we also when we go out and talk to the airlines we show them that, we show them not only where we are today and what our numbers are but what is project in the future and so like in any business you kind of like to have your first foot in the door before your competition comes in and you establish your customer base. US Air has done that very well, Delta's done that very well, now Allegiant Air wants to do that being a new entrant into our community. So we need to look at-- but what our customer demands are going to be, then you have to put everything together, well can we satisfy the customer demands. More and more of our customers from the business sector, you know, it's becoming a global economy and they're wanting to go overseas. I know PPD has a great interest all around the world but primarily in the UK, particularly just outside of London and they have about 80% of their traffic, I mean 80% of their employees travel, they have a very, very large travel budget.

Jones: When you say the UK are you also including Ireland?

Rosborough: Yes.

Jones: Because that's where an awful lot is going on.

Rosborough: And, you know, here in this community we have a lot of pharmaceutical companies that are here and they're not into the developing stage as they are into the research stage and so they go out to their customer base. So we're gonna have to be in a position to provide that international traffic and so one of the things we're doing is we're building a brand new customs facility and that's right now, ground breaking this week.

Jones: Can I say that down there in my abstract?

Rosborough: Sure it's a US-- we're building it brand new, shovels are just starting in the ground, should be operational in November of this year and so and we get an awful lot of international traffic now but it's primarily your private aircraft and corporate aircraft and then also from an infrastructure standpoint we're going to have to have perhaps longer runways because when people travel overseas and you go over the big pond, you have to be able to go nonstop and so you have to have bigger planes. Well bigger planes need longer runways to land on and so we have in our plan of action or our strategic plan. But the ability to do that and we have gone through to the FAA and gotten their approval to extend our runway if we have to but it has to be justified and because the capital that comes into our airport as within any airport comes from the federal government through taxes on airline tickets and that's another whole subject. But it doesn't come from taxes from our-- it's a user tax, if you fly and you're paying $300 for an airline ticket, the airline will get $200 in this example the $100 goes to the federal government in terms of a tax that would be used for capital projects at airports throughout the country because you wanna keep them safe and you wanna keep them usable. And so before you can extend a runway you have to have justification that you're going to get a carrier in large aircraft coming into do that. Once you get that--and we have that already approved by the FAA, next thing is and you have to be able to have the land available to extend the runway, so we're in the process now of trying to go out and purchase land to do that.

Jones: I was gonna ask you about growth.

Rosborough: And so that's the next best thing and so then once you do that then you make an application to the FAA to get the funding and for us we need to do a 1500 foot runway expansion in order to accommodate the type of aircraft that go into Mid-Europe, i.e. into Paris for example or into Frankfurt or into Rome, Italy. That 1500 feet has a 22 million dollar price tag in today's dollar. So it's big dollars just to put in 1500 feet so.

Jones: How about security, both security for travelers and security for airport personnel etc, etc?

Rosborough: Yes security has been a big issue as you know since September 11th, 2001 and no matter what size airport you all have to fall under the same rules and regulations. If you are Dallas Fort Worth or you're Wilmington International and we have federal government employees called the TSA employees, Transportation Security Administration. They fall under the Department of Homeland Defense and the federal government, a new agency created since 9/11 and they're the ones that check your bags, your check baggage at the airport. They're the ones that check you when you go through the screening checkpoint, all those personnel and they all go through the same training, they all go through, you know, what to look for because it has to be as best we can consistently apply throughout all the airports in the US and there's 334 airports that provide service, commercial service and so it's an awful lot. So you try to be consistent with that and there are more and more regulations coming out from Department of Homeland Security as they assess security threats. There's always something going on every day it's amazing, I attend seminars and there are-- you'd be surprised and I can go too much into that, you'd be surprised at the number of credible threats that they receive every single day, 365 days a year.

Jones: You're speaking of credible threats?

Rosborough: Credible threats and I mean they get thousands a day and the majority of them are not but there are several, several credible threats that they have to go out and investigate and as a result of that if they find some sort of a consistent pattern then they will put forth some regulations and okay they gotta watch out for example with the shoes, that happened and, you know, the person that tried to-- well there were several that tried to do that and we only-- they caught one. You think it was just the one person, no there were several that were put out to do that and so then they found people that would try to store things in their body, on their body and you have to go through the x-ray to get that done because if someone has a will to get something done particularly to do harm, they'll find a way.

Jones: Is there a feeling or do you feel that there is a feeling that perhaps too much publicity about these for example the shoe or in clothing or baggage or whatever can incite somebody whose crazy to do the same thing?

Rosborough: You can and it's like anything else it's beyond say my comprehension or my ability to handle is people, you know, then you have on the other side of that "Well why are doing this?" I need to have a reason as to why you're charging this rate or why you're going through and why you're making me assume the position. Why are you picking on me who's 95 years old, I'm walking with a cane and so why do I have to. I mean it took me all morning to put my shoes on, now I gotta take 'em off, you know, and it's just-- so you say "Well you got people that are saying why" and so you try to release as much as information to say to keep them informed and then you start generating "Well I can do better than that" you know and others will, they'll come out so yes I think it's a little bit of each and you just try to like anything else in life you try to find a balance of what makes the most logical sense of which you can answer all different groups of personnel.

Jones: How about corporate traffic and private traffic with security?

Rosborough: They have less of that going on at the present time. When they implemented all the new regulations after '01 of course they primarily focused on the air traffic and the commercial traffic because that's where it happened. They're just now getting into as you may know, Carroll, with the state ports and checking all the goods and services on that. Amtrak just recently announced as of this year in the budget, they are starting to go through and putting security checks on Amtrak, people getting on and luggage getting on Amtrak because they go right into the heart of major cities, i.e. New York and can cause a major catastrophe. And so the available the money and so forth and all this new technology is coming into play and they're honing that down to what works, what doesn't work, is now getting out more into that public sector. It has not gotten infiltrated a great deal yet into the private sector. The private sector they do not come into the terminal, they have, they're a distance away, they're outside of this secure area which we call the red zone, they're outside of that and if so, they're gonna come in and try to do damage they can do damage to a much smaller base, you know, they may come down with their plane and blow up and blow up several planes and god forbid maybe several people but not like you walk into an airport and blow up thousands and thousands of people. However that is coming and so the TSA is now going to that next level, there's like a ripple in a pond and as a waves start going out they're touching more and more sectors of population and the general aviation, the corporate aircraft are now starting to go through that and, you know, before they used to be able to drive it out to their plane, unload, but now they can't, you know, they stopped that, you gotta go through a security checkpoint and so there's gonna be more and more of that coming and the security as more people are flying and I think that people are getting more used to and they're accepting. They're feeling a little more secure now and the numbers are great that security is gonna have to be enhanced to meet that demand--

Jones: Are you gonna have an air show this year?

Rosborough: We are.

Jones: How do you work with security and that sort of a scenario?

Rosborough: Very carefully, very carefully, it's-- what we will do is the Thunderbirds, the Air Force Thunderbirds are coming in, the air show is going to be on Saturday April 19th--

Jones: Ooh! I gotta' go!

Rosborough: --and it's the week after Azalea Fest so it's easy for people to remember and it's a Saturday and Sunday and we wanna see Wilbur out there and he will be and so what you have to do is control the airspace and as best as you can and have high security. We have for example bomb detection dogs as one level of security out there at the airport and they can tell if there's something on your person or of it's in your luggage or if it's in your carry bag, if you're bringing something in. We don't permit anyone to bring coolers in, anything you get has to be purchased inside the area and then everything that came in from the outside inside to be sold is checked and so that's how you're gonna go through it and ensure the safety and security of that.

Jones: That would be a big job, you got all kinds of people who go to that, the weather's getting good.

Rosborough: Yeah 40 to 50,000 people and it's a large, you know, the whole family, it's a fun event and but it's also can be a security nightmare and we just work very hard and we have a lot of cooperation from the local law enforcement people and we hire personnel, you know, let's say from UNCW or off duty sheriffs that come in and we employ them to be, you know, in disguise so to speak and just like regular people but they're on duty working for us and going through, if they see anybody that looks suspicious or hanging around looking and so it takes a lot of integration, a lot of cooperation and partnerships to pull this thing off.

Jones: You got any special planes coming in like a random B17 or something?

Rosborough: We got called, I don't know, it's rare, I'm usually the last one to find out and everyone thinks I'm the first, they'll call into the tower or they'll call into the FBO. I had a call in today from Colonel from up in DC and saying they're gonna bring in the 747 and they're coming into fly and do some touch and go's but I'm usually-- and I see a C130 come in and, you know, they see Harrier's come in and, you know, and all of a sudden but I see 'em when everybody else sees 'em.

Jones: Well I know that's always a big draw, you know, kids, high school kids love it, they're antiques and of course there are a lot of adults who just, you know, drool over it.

Rosborough: And if I can say quickly there's a lot of opportunities right now in the aviation field, the airline pilots are ageing, just like the ageing population and the air traffic controllers are ageing and they're all getting ready to retire and so it is very lucrative, very well paying jobs so and so all the young university personnel that are looking for jobs and you may wanna get out and look at this, they're employing them as we speak and there's gonna be 20 some thousand new air traffic controllers coming out over the next 5 years.

Jones: That's a tough job.

Rosborough: It is.

Jones: Jon thanks so much for coming and sharing this. It's a very interesting subject and I can't-

Rosborough: Thank you.

Jones: I have one last question. When do you go home and sleep, I mean it's just so many parts to this.

Rosborough: There is and you're on call 24/7 but I love the job and you love it, you eat it and sleep it and I don't have to be at the airport all the time, you know, with all the techno and I get my laptop and I get my cell phone and--

Jones: And you got your Gold's Gym so you can go work it out.

Rosborough: I got my Gold's gym, I go to work out the stress whatever that is and then and my wife is very understanding and very accommodating so that's what makes it all happen.

Jones: Well you're a happy man. Thanks so much.

Rosborough: I enjoyed it. Thank you.

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