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Airport has it right in Toney Coleman


Call this a love affair with flight.

And Toney Coleman has soared.

“I've been interested in aviation since my teenage years, when I watched the Blue Angels performing at the Smith-Reynolds Airport in Winston-Salem, North Carolina,” Coleman says in a news release announcing his selection as director of Fayetteville Regional Airport. “I believed I could fly and put my faith to work. At the time, I worked as a dishwasher at Holiday Inn, and when walking home one evening I stopped by the airport and asked if anyone could give me an introductory flight. They did, and from that point on I've been chasing wings.”

He’s served as a U.S. Army aviator, an Army Reserves aviator, a fixed wing pilot and, since 1993, as deputy director at Fayetteville Regional Airport. City Manager Doug Hewett picked him to succeed the retired Bradley Whited as the airport director.

“Dr. Coleman has more than earned this new role as director,” Hewett says in the release. “During the past years we’ve worked together, he’s demonstrated his prowess as a subject matter expert in all things airport related, and as a superb leader. He will be instrumental in moving the airport forward on a positive trajectory.”

That trajectory, according to Hewett, includes Phase I and Phase II terminal renovations totaling more than $53 million, and securing new flights for travelers.

“For my first 25 years with the City of Fayetteville as its deputy director, I simultaneously served aviation stakeholders at the local, state, regional and national levels,” Coleman says. “My faith in God has been foundational and my wife's love has been unwavering. As Fayetteville's airport director, I now get the opportunity to focus solely on our airport. Getting the Fayetteville Regional Airport back to normalcy after COVID-19, holding on to incumbent airlines, securing new airline service and funding the terminal renovation Phase II Project (without tax-based dollars) will be challenging, but worth the effort.”

Coleman was born the last of 15 children to the Rev. James A. and Annie B. Coleman, in a home in which the Lord and the Golden Rule were paramount. He later graduated from Winston-Salem State University, where a military science instructor inspired his pursuit of an aviation career.

Coleman went on to earn a master’s degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and a doctoral degree from Northcentral University and earned an Army commission as a second lieutenant.

Coleman has served as the first African-American president of the North Carolina Airports Association and as the first president of the Southeast Chapter of the American Association of Airport Executives. In June, he ended four years of service on the National AAAE board of directors that serves airports across the United States.

Take it from me.

The city manager got it right in selecting Toney Coleman as director of Fayetteville Regional Airport.

I met Toney Coleman years ago when he was coordinating the Snowball Express, a project of the Gary Sinise Foundation that annually sends families and children of fallen U.S. soldiers to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

Coleman treated every kid and every parent with kindness, care and respect.

He made a lasting impression.

Or take if from Jay Wyatt.

“I have been on the Fayetteville Airport Commission for 15 years,” Wyatt says in the release. “I have known Toney not only through the commission, but also as a member of our aviation community. It is a pleasure to see him take the airport director position, and I look forward to great things to come for our community. He will do an excellent job managing our airport and leading the staff.”

Yes, sir, Mr. Hewett.

In Toney Coleman, you got it right for sure.

Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at bkirby@CityViewnc.com, billkirby49@gmail.com or 910-624-1961