This Runway Is a Keeper, New Airport Owner Says

A Michigan couple who recently bought and relocated to a North Carolina airport are hoping to expand operations.

The Amundsens are inspiring the next generation of aviators at their home strip, Tailwinds Airport (06NC). [Courtesy of Jonathan and Liz Amundsen]

Owning a grass strip has been a longtime goal for Jonathan and Liz Amundsen. 

Before purchasing Tailwinds Airport (06NC) in St. Pauls, North Carolina, the couple had dreamed the lifestyle change into existence, writing the airport’s address as their own, even before closing on the property. 

“We were specifically looking for a runway home and were living up in Michigan at the time," Jonathan said. "I’m not a big fan of Michigan, because it’s cold and wet for too many months of the year for my preference. We were looking for some place further south that wasn’t quite as cold and wound up finding this place."

Not long after seeing a link for the airport listing, the Admudsens were on a jet headed to look at the property and make an offer.

“It was kind of funny because one of the first questions that the realtor had was, ‘Well, what are your intentions with the property?’” Jonathan said. “I kind of laughed and said, ‘Well, what do you mean? It’s an airport! We plan on keeping the runway!’” 

Tailwinds Airport (06NC) in St. Pauls, North Carolina, is owned by the Amundsen family, who purchased the grass airstrip in September 2022. [Courtesy of Jonathan and Liz Amundsen]

The couple, both A&P/IAs and pilots, have owned the airport for less than a year and say, so far, the experience has aligned with their expectations for owning an airport. 

“My wife and I recently bought the airport in September of last year,” Jonathan said. “So, it’s still fairly new to us, and we are in the process of getting it all set up the way that we want it. Tailwinds Airport was originally constructed in 1993. The guy who was originally there was named Bob Rogers, and I wish that I could have met the guy. He was a staple in the area, and everybody knows who he is. Anytime we give our address out, everyone says, ‘That’s Bob Rogers’ old place!’ But his granddaughter actually still lives there on the property, our next-door neighbors, and they were excited to hear that we were going to keep the runway.” 

The Amundsens' home at Tailwinds Airport . [Courtesy of Jonathan and Liz Amundsen]

According to Jonathan, the airport was largely turnkey, allowing the couple to move in and fill the hangars with planes of varying types. 

“The runway was in pretty good condition when we bought the airport, but it hadn’t been used much recently because Bob was getting older and hadn’t been flying as much,” he said. “Once we got it, we, of course, had to mow the grass and get it all cleaned back up again. It has runway lights, so we got those all back in working condition again. Right now, we are in the process of cleaning up some trees around there and getting everything the way we want it. 

"Our plan for the future is that we want to build another bigger hangar there as well. There are presently three shade hangars on the field, and there is a workshop hangar, which is all air-conditioned. That makes it really nice for working on planes in the summertime.”

The couple keeps several of their own aircraft at the airport, in addition to temporarily hangaring aircraft that they work on for others. 

“We have several airplanes,” Jonathan said. “My wife and I just finished putting a [Piper] J-3 [Cub] back together and have a [Aeronca] Champ there that’s flyable. Then we have her little Cessna 150, and I have a Cessna 172 that I use to commute back and forth to Charlotte [North Carolina] for work [as an airline pilot]. I do it every week, and it’s an hour and a half from my house to walking into the airport terminal.

A Piper J-3 Cub and the Tailwinds Airport's grass runway. [Courtesy of Jonathan and Liz Amundsen]

“We have been having a lot of fun running the airport so far and are still trying to get the word out that we are there. We are hoping that we get some more people that come over, stop by, and say hi from time to time. But we are starting to get known a little bit in the area and people are coming by. I think that a lot of people are nervous, though, since we are a private airport, and they need prior permission. So everybody is worried whether they are going to get permission or not. I always tell them that we have trees on both ends of the runway, so as long as you pay attention to your performance numbers, then, yeah, absolutely, come on in!”

The North Carolina transplants have been just as excited to explore other airports in the state and beyond. Jonathan highlighted some of the places that they’ve either visited or hope to soon. 

“I haven’t explored the area as much as I want to yet, but there are a lot of amazing places nearby,” he said. “There are a couple of really good on-airport restaurants. One of them is neat but had burned down last year and just got it back up and running. It’s called the Pik-n-Pig, a little barbecue joint up north in Carthage [at Gilliam-McConnell Airfield, BQ1]. There are several other restaurants around that we are slowly getting around to.

“We are also not far from First Flight Airport (KFFA) in Kitty Hawk, where the Wright brothers first flew. That’s a little over an hour away. Then, of course, there’s Wilmington, Myrtle Beach [South Carolina], and many other things are close by as well. One of the other places I’d like to take the kids to is Ocracoke Island Airport (W95).”

Overall, owning an airport of their own has been worth the sacrifice, Jonathan Amundsen said.  

“As far as recommendations to anyone else wanting to have a place of their own, it is an absolutely amazing experience and I have zero regrets,” he said. “But it does require a lot of time, sweat, tears, and help from the right people. It takes a lot of cooperation and communication to get the results we have here. I’d never been able to do it without the help from friends, neighbors, and family that have supported us.”

Grant Boyd is a private pilot with eight years of experience in aviation business, including marketing, writing, customer service, and sales. Boyd holds a Bachelor's and a Master's of Business Administration degree, both from Wichita State University, and a Doctor of Education degree from Oklahoma State University. He was chosen as a NBAA Business Aviation "Top 40 Under 40" award recipient in 2020.

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