Originally created 11/10/99

E-mail adds fuel to airports' rivalry



Members of two local pilots' groups are being asked to attend the Augusta Aviation Commission meeting Thursday to oppose the renewal of Airport Director Al McDill's employment contract.

The invitation is in an e-mail written by Larry Garner, founder and secretary of CSRA Pilots Association, that was sent to pilots and others by Ed Johnson, co-chairman of this year's Boshears Fly-In.

The e-mail, which Mr. Garner said was a rough draft he sent to Mr. Johnson, was mailed in its unedited form. In it were statements attributed to Mr. McDill, made during a meeting in Mayor Bob Young's office to discuss moving the annual Boshears Fly-In from Daniel Field to Augusta Regional Airport at Bush Field.

At that meeting were Mr. Young, Mr. McDill, Mr. Johnson, Bush Field Operations Manager Tim Weegar and Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Barry White, according to Mr. Young and Mr. McDill.

The e-mail states that Mr. McDill said the fly-in would never happen at his airport and that an air show couldn't be held at a commercial airport.

Mr. McDill said the statements attributed to him in the e-mail were "totally false."

"It was false, and they know it was false," he said. "If they bothered to check with some of the people that were there ... I don't think those people were in the same meeting. It's absolutely false. But I think they know that. They're misrepresenting the truth to some people."

Mr. Young said Mr. McDill was "very cooperative" at the meeting.

"Nobody said anything negative about the air show during the entire meeting, and I was in the entire meeting," Mr. Young said.

Mr. Garner said the statements in the e-mail were ones Mr. Johnson relayed to him.

"I had no intentions of sending that letter out until Ed read it and we talked about it," Mr. Garner said. "Those were statements Ed made to me that supposedly he and Marcie (Wilhelmi) understood."

Mrs. Wilhelmi, chairman of the Daniel Field governing board, member of the Bush Field board and harsh critic of Mr. McDill, was not at that meeting in Mr. Young's office.

Mr. Johnson acknowledged Tuesday night that the statements were not made at that meeting and that the e-mail was never intended to "get out beyond a select group."

In response to Mr. Garner's e-mail, Rich Gabor, president of the Experimental Aircraft Association, Chapter 172, sent out an e-mail stating: "I can safely speak for the entire chapter membership when I say that "we" support the comments made in the attached E-Mail. Mr. McDill appears to be promoting the old rivery (sic) between Bush Field and Daniel Field that unfortunately started many years ago."

Mr. Gabor said he had never met Mr. McDill but planned to be at Thursday's meeting.

"All I hear is the aviation community complaining about the things that he does or his attitude," he said. "I do know there is a bad feeling in the aviation community around here toward him."

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylviaco@augustachronicle.com.