Long-time airport employee tapped as new director

dbryant@thesunnews.comFebruary 10, 2014 

A longtime employee of Myrtle Beach International Airport who has served as interim director since September will take the job permanently.

Pat Apone, who started with the Horry County Department of Airports in 1997, will be the county’s new airports director, the county announced Monday.

She said she aims to keep the airports department – which includes Myrtle Beach International Airport and three other smaller airports – running efficiently, while striving for high levels of satisfaction from customers and the department’s 133 employees.

“The biggest challenge, as in any business, is ensuring every employee knows that they are an important part of the Horry County Department of Airports team,” she said. “And more importantly, we cannot achieve the highest levels of customer satisfaction without our team.”

County Administrator Chris Eldridge tapped Apone for the job out of 66 applicants, saying Apone has made the airport operate more efficiently in her 17 years there and wrapped up several projects as interim director, including finalizing a process for airline use agreements, rehab at the Grand Strand Airport ramp in North Myrtle Beach and assisting with the marketing plan for the International Technology and Aerospace Park, a planned business hub near the Myrtle Beach airport.

Apone has served as interim director since the former director Mike La Pier was fired in September. It was her second stint as interim director; she also was in that role from 2009 to 2010.

As director, she will oversee MYR, as well as the county’s other airports: Grand Strand Airport in North Myrtle Beach, Conway-Horry County and Loris-Twin Cities.

“Pat has been the backbone of the airport for years and has earned the top spot of director,” Eldridge said in a news release. “With Pat, Horry County is getting a new director who knows our airports inside and out, and will make an excellent addition to our management team. Her results-oriented and inclusive leadership style best fits the needs of this position.”

Apone takes the helm as passenger numbers are improving, some seasonal flights on Spirit Airlines and WestJet are starting earlier than usual and as the one-year anniversary of the opening of the new $118 million terminal approaches in April.

But MYR also has taken some hits recently, including the impending loss of nonstop flights to Washington Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., as a result of the American Airlines-US Airways merger, and the cutback of United’s usual year-round flights to Newark, N.J., to seasonal.

Apone said the airport had a good year in 2013 and she is “cautiously optimistic the growth will continue through 2014.”

In 2013, about 833,568 passengers flew into MYR, about 12 percent more than in 2012, which was a disappointing year that broke a trend of back-to-back record years for the airport. In 2011, a record 881,694 passengers flew into Myrtle Beach.

“Supporting my optimism is the recent news from Standard & Poor’s which reaffirmed the MYR’s airport revenue bonds as outstanding, the new airline use agreement, continued growth of air service at Myrtle Beach International Airport from incumbent airlines, to name a few,” Apone said.

Apone has a financial background, earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance from Coastal Carolina University and a master’s in finance from Winthrop University. Apone, who started working at the airport as the deputy director of finance and administration, had been the assistant director for three years before being named interim director in September.

Contact DAWN BRYANT at 626-0296 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_dawnbryant.

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