The Beginnings of Presidential Flight

It’s no secret that U.S. presidents and vice presidents have spent their fair share of time in Western North Carolina, many of whom have arrived by air into our fair region. Over the years, Asheville Regional Airport has welcomed a number of White House occupants (not to mention White House hopefuls), including last autumn’s visit by President Obama. In fact, one of our favorite sights is the massive Air Force One 747 parked on the AVL ramp.

Air Force One

Air Force One parked at AVL (October, 2011)

It was this sight that got us thinking about the history of Air Force One, and it just so happens that today is the 102nd anniversary of the first presidential flight. On October 11, 1910 the spectacle-clad Theodore Roosevelt boarded an early Wright Flyer at Kinloch Field (now Lambert-St. Louis International Airport) during a county fair and took a short flight in view of the crowds. Granted, he was no longer holding office as president (he’d been succeeded by William Howard Taft), but the occasion is in the history books as the first flight by a United States president.

It was the other Roosevelt (Franklin, that is) who first flew in an aircraft while holding down the top job in our nation’s capital. Ever since that time, U.S. presidents have taken to the skies as part of their duty to “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States,” as the oath of office puts it.

Many different types of aircraft have been used for presidential detail, but it wasn’t until the Reagan administration that the 747 took over the job. In the 1990s, during the George H.W. Bush administration, two VC-25A planes were added to the fleet. Presidents have also flown in Marine One (a Blackhawk or Sea King helicopter), Navy One (a Lockheed Viking), and various other airborne machines.

“An interesting bit of trivia is that if a president was onboard a Cessna 152, that plane — or any other plane occupied by the president — would be given the call sign ‘Air Force One,’” said Jeff Augram, Chief of Asheville Regional Airport Department of Public Safety. “And, it’s not designated as ‘Air Force One’ until the president is on board.” Jeff has worked with both the Air Force and the Secret Service on many of these high profile visits, and has even been on board a presidential 757 aircraft.

Air travel has changed (and improved!) a lot in the last 100 years, and presidential planes are no exception. To learn more about Air Force One, check out the History Channel’s Inside Air Force One fact sheet, or watch the National Geographic special.

Sneak Peek at Runway 5k + Aviation Day

The much-anticipated Runway 5k + Aviation Day is this Saturday, and we wanted to let you in on a few details about some of the exciting things happening at the event.

The Runway 5k portion of the day is expected to draw more than 750 runners (650 were signed up at the time of this post), and they’ll be running the whole length of the AVL runway this year – pretty exciting!

After the race, Aviation Day will begin, and we are super excited to tell you there will be a Coast Guard C-130 airplane on site that you’ll be able to see up close.

There will be lots of other aircraft to see, too, like a Blackhawk helicopter, Navy trainers, and a whole bunch of cool civilian aircraft. Mission Hospital’s MAMA helicopter will be there too, and the State Highway Patrol Helicopter! Plus, WNC Pilot’s Association will be offering low-cost flights over the Asheville area – a great way to get a new perspective on Western North Carolina! (Flights are $30 for adults, $15 for children, for a 15-minute flight.)

Highway Patrol Helicopter

And if the airplanes aren’t enough, we’ll also have some of the massive machinery it takes to keep an airport up and running (think fire trucks, sweepers, and plows), plus activities for adults and kids alike, thanks to our friends at The Health Adventure, Hands On! – A Child’s Gallery, Asheville’s Fun Depot and the WNC Air Museum.

If you’re curious about local educational offerings that could propel you into a career in aviation (from piloting an airplane to maintenance at an airport), WNC Aviation (a regional flight school), Blue Ridge Community College and AB Tech will be on site, as well as the U.S. Air Force.

We are proud to partner with these organizations who are all contributing to a very exciting Aviation Day!

Finally, we’ll have great bluegrass music provided by The High Windy Band, food available for purchase from our very own Blue Ridge Tavern, and a chance to win free airfare just by dropping an entry form into a box!

The weather will be great on Saturday, so we hope you’ll join us for this fun celebration of aviation!

Event Time: While the 5k race starts at 9:30 (and runners are encouraged to arrive no later than 8:30), the Aviation Day activities take place from 10am until 2pm.

Parking: Parking will be at the Airport. Follow the signs marked “Event Parking.” A free shuttle will take you to the event site, which in on the north end of the airport.

Cost: Admission to the event is free. Food and drink purchases are cash only.

More info

The Runway 5k is Back!

Runway 5k LogoThe word is out that our Runway 5k + Aviation Day is back by popular demand, and we’re more excited than ever because this year’s race on October 6 will cover the entire length of the runway at Asheville Regional Airport, giving you a chance to run more than a mile and a half of runway with your own two feet!

In fact, we’re so excited, we’re giving away FREE race registrations (along with very cool race shirts) to a few lucky winners. You have three chances to win, so give yourself the best shot at a free registration by entering all three giveaways.

First, you can visit the Asheville Regional Airport Facebook page and enter the sweepstakes there. As a bonus, you’ll receive an additional entry for each friend you refer using the special link provided to you after you register.

Second, you can go to a very cool local running blog called Carolina Runner and answer three simple trivia questions for another chance to win.

Finally, ChiRunning, an Asheville-Based running website dedicated to teaching safe and efficient running technique, is giving away yet another free race registration, and you can enter to win by visiting their Facebook page.

Early registration for the race opens July 1, and registering by September 1 guarantees you a race shirt. But that’s only half the excitement. The other half is our Aviation Day, which puts the focus on the thrill of aviation. Featuring aircraft on display, aviation experts on hand to answer your questions, food, live music, activities, prizes, and more, there is something for everyone at Aviation Day!

So mark your calendar for Saturday, October 6, and be sure to enter for your chance to win a free race registration for the flattest 5k in the mountains!

Five Years of Art

A huge part of Western North Carolina’s identity is tied to the incredible artistic talent that can be found here. From sculptors and painters to photographers and wood turners (not to mention all of the musicians!), there is a plethora of remarkable ability concentrated here in the mountains.

“Foal” by J. Aaron Alderman


“Poppy Field” by Sarah Faulkner


Five years ago in June, we launched a program called Art in the Airport for the sole purpose of supporting the arts — and showing off the work of these artists — right here in our airport terminal. What better way to welcome new visitors, we thought, than to give them a taste of the inspired culture that thrives here — before they even set foot on WNC soil.

“Loach” by David Larson


“Spokes” by Gary Bills


And so we dedicated a humble 364-square-foot space to this goal and that first year we opened three exhibits (June, August, and November) and had some fantastic work on display. Year two brought four more exhibitions and 126 artistic treasures to our gallery.

Exhibit 1, Art in the Airport


All told, since 2007, we have featured 134 artists from 10 counties, and more than 500 pieces of artwork have been displayed. From artists with decades of experience, to teenagers just dipping their toes in the waters of creativity, our gallery has hosted some of the most exceptional work to be found in Western North Carolina.

“TeaPot Collection #5” by Sue Grier


“Warm Forest” by Olga Dorenko


Our first exhibit featured student artwork — primarily students from our own UNCA — and was a great way to kick off the program. There’s something about young talent that is truly inspirational.

“Holy Toledo” by Ralph Berger


“Finding Balance” by Veronika Hart


After that first show, there was no turning back and the flood of artwork rolled in, with each piece taking its place in our gallery’s history, and some finding new homes in the residences of enamored buyers.

“Bill’s Barbecue – Day” by Drew Deane


“African Scene” by Dennis Davis


If these examples aren’t proof enough of the rich artistic culture, we welcome you to visit the airport to see for yourself the latest exhibit, which features photography and sculpture by five local artists.


“Tailgate” by Sue Hershey


“The Boat” by Daniel Amick


“Asheville” by Todd Dionne


It’s been an inspiring five years of Art in the Airport and we owe it to the imaginative and dedicated artists of Western North Carolina — thank you for sharing your talent with us and with the world!

Are you an artist, or do you know someone who is? We invite artists of all kinds – and all levels of experience – to apply for Art in the Airport. There’s no fee to apply or to display your work if you’re selected, and it’s a great way to gain exposure. For more information, visit and search “Art Gallery.”

Selections from the current exhibit, featuring Binna Green, Ivana Larrosa, Ed Law, Barbara Sammons, and David Simchock.

Prohibited Items

Since 9-11, a lot of things have changed in the aviation world. Perhaps the most notable transformation was the introduction of the Transportation Security Administration at security checkpoints nationwide. Our TSA agents work hard to keep us safe as we fly, and the agents at Asheville Regional Airport receive especially high marks from passengers for their friendliness, helpfulness, and all around jobs-well-done. (Good job, TSA!)

One of the TSA’s most visible duties is the confiscation of prohibited items, and if you’ve traveled recently and inadvertently (or advertently — that’s a word that should be used more often) attempted to take a prohibited item through security, you know exactly what we’re talking about, and you’re not alone.

Despite the fact that TSA maintains a list of prohibited items on their website (which you can find here), millions of travelers each year must abandon items at checkpoints — pocket knives, wine corkscrews, and the occasional mercury tooth filling. Just kidding — fillings are permitted to stay in place as they have not yet been deemed dangerous, at least not to airline passengers. The controversy over the danger of mercury fillings to your health, however, remains.

But we digress.

Our Department of Public Safety oversees a growing collection of items confiscated by the TSA. Most of these items will be taken to a metal scrap yard, melted down, and made into a brand new pocket knives — one of which you’ll probably go out and buy to replace the one you left at the checkpoint. It’s the sheer volume of items confiscated that’s so amazing.

Take this box full of wine corkscrews for example:

Confiscated corkscrews

Or this box of knives:Box of knives

Which is just one of these THREE boxes of knives:Three boxes of knives

And if you look really hard, below the box on the upper right, you can just barely make out the edges of several small barbells, which leads us to believe that the line blurted by luggage-toting husbands for decades — “What’d you pack in here – weights?!” — may, in fact, have a non-fiction origin.

We’ll leave you with a picture of our favorite confiscated items currently in the Confiscation Closet (okay, we don’t really have a room called the Confiscation Closet, but it sounds pretty cool, so let’s go with it).


Until next time, take the easy way out by packing light, packing smart, and traveling safely!

The Only Person in the Airport Who Hopes Your Flight is Delayed

That’s right. Out of the 100+ people who work in, around, and for the Asheville Regional Airport, there’s only one who secretly hopes your flight is delayed. We sat down with Todd Levick, General Manager of our own Blue Ridge Trading + Tavern, to get answers.

Todd Levick

Asheville Regional Airport (AVL): Let’s start with the big question: Why, oh why, do you hope for delayed flights?

Todd Levick: Well, when I travel, it’s the last thing I want, but here, in an airport restaurant, it’s good news. It’s against my nature to want something negative for someone, so it’s kind of a strange feeling when I find myself happy that a flight has been delayed. Really though, I want people to be slowed down and for the Blue Ridge Tavern to be a place that changes a negative experience (like a delayed flight) into a positive one where someone walks away saying, “Man, I’m so glad I got to experience this – farm-to-table food, a great server, the best burger I’ve ever had.” That’s what I want.

AVL: So you’re not really a bad guy. What about you? When you fly, where do you go?

TL: Honestly, I don’t fly very often, but when I do I go home to Boston. One of my favorite ways to travel is actually on the road in the middle of the night when no one else is driving.

AVL: You’re not supposed to say things like that when you work in an airport! This is supposed to be an airport story, promoting air travel! Anyway, while we’re on the subject, tell us the best thing about working here, managing the Tavern.

TL: Lots of things, really, but probably all the different people converging in this one place for different reasons—almost like a Field of Dreams thing—and being able to experience that.

AVL: Okay, so here’s a big question: why isn’t there a restaurant and bar in the pre-screening lobby area, and when can travelers expect to see something?

TL: I can’t answer the second part yet, but the first part is easy: less than 10% of business is done on the pre-screening side of an airport, so from a business standpoint, it’s a lot of money to invest into something that offers little return. However, we are definitely looking at this. We know people want it.

AVL: Let’s talk business for a second: what’s your top selling item?

TL: Water. Everybody wants water. And then coffee. Gum and magazines are big too.

AVL: What’s your favorite thing on the menu?

TL: Well, my favorite thing is actually something that’s not on the menu yet—shrimp and grits. But the most popular thing is our burger. I’ve had people say, “I don’t want burgers anywhere else now.” It’s the best burger in town: Brioche buns, local produce whenever possible. If you’re going to do a burger, make it the best burger imaginable.

Blue Ridge Tavern Burger
AVL: How do you motivate your staff to provide great customer service?

TL: Example. Hiring the right people and leading the charge every day. It all starts at the top. There’s a lot of passion in our company about designing an intentionally great experience, and there’s a lot of passion about great customer service, which is evidenced by the fact that The Paradies Shops (our parent company) has won the Airport Revenue News award for “Concessionaire with Highest Regard for Customer Service” for 15 years, and “Best Airport Retailer” for 16. It’s about the culture, not just the training.

AVL: Last question: what’s new and exciting for 2012?

TL: Redefining our menu and listening to what our guests want. We try to do a little bit of everything, but our identity is a Southern, fresh, something-for-everyone tavern. When I travel, I look for the Irish bar, so I love the tavern aspect of who we are. We also want to connect more with the community and become even more of a destination restaurant where people have to come to the airport an hour early, not because TSA said so, but because they want to be waited on by their favorite server and enjoy a great experience.

Learn more about Blue Ridge Trading + Tavern or take a look at the menu.

AVL’s Runway 5k

It’s one thing to plan a massive, precedent-demolishing event for eight months and then watch it unfold before your eyes as members of our very own Western North Carolina community descend upon the airport by the hundreds to take part in our very first Runway 5k + Healthy Fun Day. It’s another thing altogether to see it from someone else’s perspective—that of a runner, child, or aerial photographer, for example.

If you were here last Saturday to help us celebrate our 50th year by running on the runway, enjoying food from Tupelo Honey, Frankie Bones, or our own Blue Ridge Tavern, or perhaps by kicking back and enjoying the music played so well by local bluegrass band High Windy—despite the numbing cold—you probably have your own take on what was great, what could have been better (the weather, for example!), and what was just plane unique (pun intended). And if you didn’t brave the cold last weekend, this post will give you a little taste of what went down (which, ironically, is a phrase we tend to avoid in the aviation industry).

Photos are plastered all over our Facebook page, so you can get a good feel for things there, but here’s a real treat: images from the sky of the hundreds of runners that converged on the airport’s runway for a historic run.

(Click on the photos to see larger versions.)

Aerial photo 1

Aerial photos by

Aerial photo 2Aerial photo 3Aerial photo 4Aerial photo 5Aerial photo 7Aerial photo 8Aerial photo 9

You can’t beat an aerial view for an event like this.

After the race (which was won by Arden resident Scott Laws with a time of 18:39) parents and children alike filled hangar #7 to take part in the Healthy Fun Day portion of the event. Our event partner, Mission Health, went above and beyond to make health education fun and easy for all who attended, even dispatching MAMA, their emergency services helicopter, to the site so kids of all ages could get up close and personal with one of our region’s most recognizable aircraft.

One of the activities for kids was a scavenger hunt, in which children were tasked with finding objects or activities at the event that started with each of the letters in the words “Healthy Fun.” Take a look at these always adorable, sometimes touching, and often hilarious things kids see at an event like this:

Happy Faces

Happy faces is certainly a good sign, and clearly something that stands out to a child.

UnicornWhile we have received calls about unidentified flying objects at or around the airport, we can’t say that we’ve ever seen a unicorn. We are ready to offer this child a job in our creative department, though—imagination is a beautiful thing!

Ugly Color Pink

This one, for the record, says “ugly color pink.” We admit there was a lot of pink, but for a good cause! The event benefited Ladies Night Out and breast cancer awareness, in honor of Pink October.

U.S. Soldier

This one doesn’t need a caption, but it just makes us want to say thanks to all of our military service members, past and present.

Free ThingsIf you were ever a child, you know the importance of getting something for free. Heck, many of us STILL love getting things for free even though we’ve outgrown the ability to imagine unicorns at a party. We saw kids and adults alike walk out with everything from yo-yos and Frisbees, to a wad of cash (courtesy of Mix 96.5) and work-out towels. Free things are definitely deserving of an exclamation point.

Why waste time

Some children are born to be efficient. Why waste precious time looking around for a plethora of items when you could finish this little project with a few adjectives? “Awesome plane, little plane, truck, huge truck, yellow truck, flying plane, ugly truck, new truck.” DONE. Does this one remind anyone else of the wonderful Dr. Seuss?

Nice people

One polite young ‘un took the time to underline “Nice people” somewhere between four and twenty times. And it’s true—we met an awful lot of nice people on Saturday. We’re glad so many of you were here to have a good time with us, and thanks to ALL of you, we have much to celebrate!

Why yes, we DID exfoliate our runway…

Unless you’re in the aviation industry, “runway rejuvenation” might sound like a term to describe a day at the spa for a high-fashion runway model before the next big show. And actually, that’s not too far off.

For an airport, undergoing a runway rejuvenation is the equivalent of a treatment at the Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa – emphasis on spa – complete with cleansing and exfoliation, body masque, and deep tissue massage.

Essentially, it’s a way to treat and preserve the runway.

First is the rubber removal process, meaning that all the rubber left on the runway—when the wheels of your plane touch down—has to come up. Scraping it off is a lengthy process, but like exfoliating your skin, you have to get rid of the gunk before you treat what’s underneath.

Next is “rout and grout,” which involves cleaning out cracks in the asphalt, and then filling and sealing them with a hot tar substance, which could be likened to a body masque.

After that comes the deep tissue massage, in which a sealant is applied that seeps into the depth of the asphalt and replenishes the needed oils and elasticity, protecting the entire runway.

Finally the markings are painted afresh, like having make-up professionally applied.

The process is something akin to Extreme Makeover: Runway Edition. And the best part of a show like that? The reveal, of course! Ladies and gentlemen, we proudly present our newly rejuvenated runway:

Runway Before + After Photos

Vision Departs AVL

You may have heard recently that Vision Airlines has decided to suspend service from AVL as of today. Yes, it’s true, although it’s not unexpected.

When Vision Airlines—new to commercial aviation—began serving AVL in the spring of this year, we were one of 11 cities that acquired service. Summer travel to Florida has kept the flights full, but as the warm-weather season begins to wind down, the airline has decided to make some changes, including pulling service from nine cities across the U.S.

Change like this happens all the time in the aviation industry—it’s just more noticeable at smaller airport. The good news for AVL is that Vision only constituted 1.5% of the total passengers through our airport, so it’s not going to have a major effect on the bottom line, but for our passengers who enjoyed the non-stop service to Florida’s panhandle, it is a disappointing change.

So what’s to come? Our staff is constantly engaging in conversation with various airlines and advocating for new service in our area. We know how important convenient non-stop flights are to you and we take your requests for those top destinations (like Washington, D.C., Ft. Lauderdale, Denver, etc.) to the airlines and ask them to consider bringing new routes (and lower fares!) to our community.

So fear not: Changes are a normal part of the aviation industry and we’re always looking toward the future and the next positive change for our airport and our community. We appreciate all the great support from our travelers through the changes — the positive tweets, comments, wall posts and e-mails. Keep them coming, and keep flying local!

Runway 5k + Healthy Fun Day

A few months ago an airport staff member asked one simple question:

“Hey, why don’t we hold a runway run?”

What started as a spark in the mind of a genius airport staffer has become the event of the year here at AVL and we’re super excited to invite you to the first-ever Runway 5k and Healthy Fun Day. We don’t want to give away all the details yet, but here’s some of what you can expect:

  • A 5k race that takes place on a portion of the airport’s runway and the airport campus. Don’t worry—we’re making sure no planes are coming or going during the race!
  • Games and giveaways—including a scavenger hunt for the kids to help them earn their wings.
  • Live entertainment by some very talented musicians.
  • A drawing for free airfare from AVL.
  • Aircraft on display, including a State Highway Patrol Helicopter, private aircraft, MAMA (Mission Health’s medical transport helicopter), and more!
  • Food from local restaurants, including our very own Blue Ridge Trading + Tavern.
  • Plus lots more from our partners and Mission Health.

And the best part? Admission to the Healthy Fun Day is absolutely free! There is a small fee to participate in the Runway 5k, but you’ll get an awesome t-shirt and a unique experience to tell your friends about.

We’ll keep you posted as details unfold, but for now save the date—October 1st. The Runway 5k starts at 9am and the Healthy Fun Day kicks off at 10am.

You can learn more about the event and register for the race right here.

Tell us what you’re most excited about in the comments section!