Last year Whittington began another adventure when he purchased a private airport in rural Batesville from Hill-Rom Holdings and Hillenbrand Inc., at the time one of six owned by businesses in the whole United States.
His PowerPoint presentation called the airport “The Most Important Mile of Pavement in Franklin County.”
The story began in 1960, when Daniel Hillenbrand, now deceased, broke ground for the runway. “Fifty-two years and 12 days later, the airport was closed .... It was a really sad day. I got wind of it. I was wanting an airplane that would go faster.” Why not buy an airport, too?
Whittington said he and the personnel care about the newly-opened public airport “because aviation is in our blood, and we are dedicated to providing regional economic growth, superior aircraft maintenance and first-class customer service for personal and corporate aircraft.”
He admitted, “We’ve had some real challenges in moving this thing forward.” When he bought the facility in December, the owner thought just proper documents filed in Indianapolis were needed for the airport to go from private to public. “About eight months and $2 million later, we’re almost there.” Workers have extended the runway environment with retaining walls and landfill, moved a fence and made the runway 6 feet wider on the east side to comply with new FAA regulations. In the future, a vacant 5 acres might be used for private hangars.
According to the personable man, “We have put together a very successful team of people.” All worked at the airport when it closed and together have over 270 years of experience in aviation and customer service.
In addition to aircraft maintenance, Batesville Aviation Services offers these assets: catering for in-flight dining, heated hangars, ramp tie-down space, a terminal and administration building, jet fuel, Wi-Fi, conference room, pilot lounge and rental cars. It is licensed as a Cessna aircraft repair facility.