Gantt defends Hawaii trip to airport conference

David Gantt, a member of the governing board of the Asheville Regional Airport, returned to Asheville on Tuesday from a five-day trip to an airport industry conference in Hawaii and defended the trip as a valuable learning experience.

The conference was held at a Maui resort. The Asheville airport board initially planned to send four of its members there at a cost of more than $17,000, though one board member announced a last-minute decision not to attend. The spending has stirred outrage among some residents upset at the board’s spending during economic tough times and spurred more questions about the airport board’s budget and policies.

Gantt was greeted upon his return by a group of about 15 protesters, who questioned the spending and demanded accountability. Gantt addressed the group with a statement, noting the value of the conference, then answered questions from the media.

“You want this airport to succeed. We want this airport to succeed, and the conference I went to was a good one,” Gantt said. “I learned a lot.”

“I first of all would like you to understand that we get it. Any time there’s public money spent, you have a right to know how it’s spent and I have an obligation as a public official or a board member to explain where it goes, and I’m going to do that.”

Gantt said he talked to officials about airport security, include body scanners and the potential damage bird strikes can do to aircraft. “I think with what we’ve learned from talking to the TSA people, from talking to the FAA people, that we can make this a safer airport, and it’s very important for us to do that.”

Gantt said he talked with FAA officials and other conference-goers about sources of airport funding, noting that the Asheville airport last year received $7.5 million in stimulus cash. And he said the a contact at the conference resulted in the addition of a new flight out of the Asheville airport.

“We will have an announcement soon, due to a contact we made at this convention, that we will have a new hub we will be flying to and I’m not going to steal the thunder, but that will be coming.”

Gantt said issues surrounding the airport’s budget and policies regarding trips will be discussed at the next board meeting in February.

— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor

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9 thoughts on “Gantt defends Hawaii trip to airport conference

  1. Piffy!

    government officials should only be allowed to go to conferences in boring, cold, and possibly depressing places.

    Akron Ohio, or maybe Canton.

  2. Mister Blister

    I’m not convinced he learned a lot in Hawaii. He had better learned a lot more than just “body scanners and the potential damage bird strikes can do to aircraft.”.

    I’d like to know how much they spent and one what. $17,000 for 4 people for 5 days? Sounds like some folks needed to share a room or fly coach. Where did they eat and how much did they spend on meals? How many “Adult Entertainment” clubs did they go to?

    I would also like to see the schedules and see what he really learned. A person can look on the internet to learn about body scanners, and birds… heck they can even see pictures of the beach.

    “And, uh, we learned about stuff and talked to people… and I met someone. I’m going to figure out something to announce soon, I promise!” … come on Thunder Pig, you got to do better than that.

  3. GoodGrief

    This is the problem with politics in general, there is absolutely no accountability and hard-earned tax dollars, yours and mine, are being pissed away by these people who feed us lies and nonsense. Mister Blister is right on, we deserve full disclosure and the truth. Isn’t Gannt the same guy who as Buncombe County Commissioner created the Parkland Debacle and ultimately said “we screwed up”? Do we really want to treat this guy to a trip to Hawaii and hope that he does not screw up the airport too? Which highest bidder did he sell out to this time? What a joke. Wake up people.

  4. travelah

    Watching people complain about the cost of this business conference while applauding $Trillion boondoggles is amusing. I would guess not a single soul would have been out at the airport protesting the trip if they were returning from Boise, Idaho.

  5. Piffy!

    Holy crap, travelah. Dont go making sense. It prevents me from pigeon-holing you.

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