If the Piedmont Triad Airport Authority (PTAA) wants to change the name of the airport – and it really, really does – it now has plenty of suggestions to choose from thanks to area residents.
Ever since airport officials let it be known that a name change was in the works, people have been sending their suggestions to the Airport Authority. The list of names, which includes responses from over 200 people, runs the gamut from names that honor prominent people of the past to names that highlight the airport’s location.
The suggestions were made to PTAA through phone calls and emails. The Rhino Times requested the list from the airport to see what names citizens thought would better serve the local landmark that’s become a driver of economic activity.
Those who weighed in, and many who didn’t, don’t like the new name the Airport Authority chose in December – Central North Carolina International Airport.
Nearly half of those who have made suggestions so far are in agreement. The number one suggested name for the airport is “Keep PTIA.”
While “Keep PTIA” may be an unusual name for an airport, those responders no doubt meant that the authority should leave the name Piedmont Triad International Airport (PTIA) the way it is. That choice made up 96 of the 205 suggestions the airport has received, which translates to 47 percent of the responses.
Those in favor of keeping the name say the airport name isn’t broken so there’s no need to fix it, and they point out that the airport, under its current name, has been on the road to success in recent years. PTIA has attracted FedEx, Honda Aircraft Company, HAECO Americas and Cessna. The airport and the companies there now employ over 5,000 people and contribute roughly $2 billion annually to the local economy; and the airport is on the brink of growing that number, since in 2019 it will open an 800-acre aviation megasite with runway access expected to attract a lot more business.
If the Airport Authority insists on changing the airport’s name to something new, there is an overwhelming favorite for a new name: Greensboro International Airport.
Of those responding, 72 voters – 36 percent – wanted to see the new name be Greensboro International Airport. That name or a version of it has also been popular among those who have sent in letters to local publications and posted suggestions on social media. Those who back the name have said it’s simple, easy to say and lets travelers and others instantly know the location of the airport. They also point out that GSO is the official designation of the airport in flight materials and Greensboro Airport is what everyone already calls it.
“That will never happen,” one Guilford County commissioner said of that proposed name. “High Point would go nuts.”
One High Point official who asked not to be named said that, with so much growth and notoriety in High Point these days, the airport should be renamed High Point International Airport if local officials really want to let people know where it is.
Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines, who serves on the Airport Authority and is a major advocate for that city, would no doubt have problems with either of those names. Joines is the authority member who made the motion to change the airport’s name to Central North Carolina International Airport before that motion was unanimously approved by the authority in December. The motion was unanimously rescinded by that same board one month later.
There’s a tie for third place between those who want the name to be determined by a public contest of some sort and those who want to see the airport named Andy Griffith International Airport – which is probably the name that would generate the most positive feelings about the airport if that were the only consideration involved.
Some who sent the authority suggestions didn’t want “International” in the name since there are no international passenger flights that serve the airport. One suggestion made was Greensboro Regional Airport. PTIA officials point out that the airport is equipped for customs services to handle international flights and also that some cargo flights have international destinations.
Another suggestion was Gate City International Airport, even though area economic development officials have been moving away from the “Gate City” brand for Greensboro since it sounds like a place you should pass through to get to some other place you actually want to be.
Other suggestions offered, with various degrees of support, were The Heart of the Triad International Airport, Greensboro Kitty Hawk Airport, Greensboro-High Point International Airport, North Carolina Midway International Airport and North Carolina Piedmont International Airport. There was also this mouthful of a suggestion – Greensboro High Point Winston-Salem International Airport – a name that would probably double all the signage costs.
Some of those responding to the airport wanted to see it named after prominent area citizens – either historical figures or well known ones who have passed away in recent decades.
One suggestion was to name it Preddy Field International Airport, after Major George Earl Preddy Jr., the Greensboro-born World War II flying ace credited with shooting down 27 enemy aircraft, ranking him as one of the best combat pilots in history.
Other suggestions included Cone/Bryan International Airport and O. Henry Greater Greensboro International Airport. Other prominent former citizens getting love from responders were famed broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow and astronaut Ronald McNair, who died during the 1986 challenger explosion. Sandy Bradshaw, a flight attendant from Colfax who died on United Airlines Flight 93 during the attacks of 9/11, is another citizen whose name was suggested.
One suggestion that’s been getting some support, and that’s been submitted to airport officials, is naming it after the late 6th District Congressman Howard Coble. State Rep. Jon Hardister said he likes that name and that he’s discussed it with Chairman of the Airport Authority Board of Directors Steve Showfety. Hardister told the Rhino Times earlier this year that the name is catchy, easy to say and would honor a man who was one of the area’s most beloved public servants.
Not all of the suggestions that call for naming the airport after a person involve someone who’s deceased – and in some cases there wasn’t even a local connection. For instance, one suggestion was “Barack Obama International Airport.”
There are some other names sent in that seem highly unlikely to be selected by the authority – such as Cripes A ’Mighty International Airport – though ironically that name would probably be the one on the entire list that would get the most people around the world to sit up and take notice of the airport – which has been the stated goal of the process all along.
The airport has been named Piedmont Triad International Airport for over three decades. Before that, it was known as the Greensboro High Point Winston-Salem Regional Airport. In 1987, the airport was, according to airport promotional materials, renamed to the Piedmont Triad International Airport “in an effort to regionalize the airport’s identity and to coincide with the development of a regional identity for the 12 counties and three cities that the airport serves.”