Answer Man: Military jets at Asheville Regional Airport? Staffing shortages there?

·4 min read
Military aircraft, such as these fighter jets that were at Asheville Regional Airport Nov. 21, 2021, often conduct training operations in the mountains.
Military aircraft, such as these fighter jets that were at Asheville Regional Airport Nov. 21, 2021, often conduct training operations in the mountains.

Today’s batch of burning questions, my smart-aleck answers and the real deal:

Question: I spotted these two fighter planes parked on the tarmac at the Asheville Regional Airport on the morning of Sunday Nov. 21. I believe they are F-18 Hornets. What the heck are they doing in Asheville?

My answer: I suspect Congressman Madison Cawthorn is now calling in air strikes on libs.

Real answer: As I live not far from AVL, I actually noticed these two jets in the air that day. It's an impressive sight, but it's also more common than you think.

"AVL often sees military flights occurring, most often as part of military flight training operations," Asheville Regional Airport spokeswoman Tina Kinsey said via email. "Through September of this year, AVL has recorded nearly 3,000 military flight operations – takeoffs and landings – at the airport."

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Kinsey did not have specific information on what unit these jets are attached to or where they fly out of.

After Googling photos of F-18s, I'm going to agree with the reader that's what these jets were, although I'm open to correction from you good readers with more expertise.

Navy.mil states, "F/A-18 Hornet became the nation’s first all-weather fighter and attack aircraft, and was designed for traditional strike applications such as interdiction and close air support without compromising its fighter capabilities. The F/A-18 A-D is employed in Marine Corps fighter attack squadrons, U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Reserve squadrons, the Navy Flight Demonstration Team (Blue Angles), and various other fleet support roles."

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Navy.mil states the Hornet "remains the workhorse of Marine Corps tactical aviation, and supports operational deployments around the globe. It will serve as the Marine Corps’ primary bridging platform to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter until its planned sundown in 2030."

From previous Answer Man columns about military jets, I know the military utilizes AVL and our mountainous environs for training because, well, mountains. It's hard to get mountain flying experience in the flatlands, you know.

Travelers wait for their flights at the gate as passengers disembark from a plane at the Asheville Regional Airport on March 27, 2019.
Travelers wait for their flights at the gate as passengers disembark from a plane at the Asheville Regional Airport on March 27, 2019.

Question: My wife recently took a flight out of Asheville Regional, and they had to sit on the tarmac for about an hour waiting for a de-icing truck. Someone on the flight said something about a staffing shortage. Is AVL having the same problem most businesses are right now: having trouble finding enough workers? If they are, how many airport positions are open? And how many people work directly for the airport? Are most of the service-type workers out there contract employees with individual companies? If so, how many companies contract to provide services at the airport?

My answer: This is why I do all my commercial flying on F-18 Hornet fighter jets. Sure, it's uncomfortable being strapped underneath the plane like a bomb and then dropped on your destination, but man you get places fast.

Real answer: I went back to airport spokeswoman Tina Kinsey for this one.

"There are many reasons that a deicing truck would take some time to arrive at a waiting plane, and we cannot comment about this specific incident without knowing full details," Kinsey said via email. "However, we can generally state that the staffing shortages that are affecting so many businesses in our country are also impacting the airport and aviation industry to varying degrees."

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The Greater Asheville Regional Airport Authority, which operates the airport facility, has 70 positions, 12 of which are open, Kinsey said.

"Typically, we have three to six open positions," Kinsey said. "Recruiting new employees has been challenging during the past year."

The airport does not manage operations or personnel for businesses that operate at the airport, such as airlines or vendors.

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"Businesses that operate at the airport include five airlines, four ground handling companies; a food, beverage and retail concessionaire, three rental car companies (representing eight brands), a parking operator, a Fixed Based Operator, the Transportation Security Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration – for a total of 17 tenant organizations."

This is the opinion of John Boyle. To submit a question, contact him at 232-5847 or jboyle@citizen-times.com

This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Military jets, staffing shortages at AVL airport?: Answer Man

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