When Moe Bazazan bought Smith Mountain Lake Airport in November 2013, it was a sleepy place, not much traffic in or out. Bazazan is passionate about aviation and thought the small airport could be a way he could share his love of flying and build a community around aviation. Fast forward nearly six years, and that vision is finally materializing.
Bazazan, from New Jersey, wanted to have something to do in aviation when he retired so he bought the airport. The previous owner, Joe Borgess, had owned the small airfield for 34 years before selling it to Bazazan.
“When I bought the airport in 2013 there was very little activity; nobody was around, and people didn’t come around,” Bazazan said. “Over the last six years I’ve tried to rebuild the traffic of the airport and keep the interest in aviation alive.”
Bazazan has steadily added improvements to the airport to help make it user friendly, most recently constructing a new hangar.
“We started the project in January,” said Bazazan. “It was finished in June, and the new tenants have moved in. It was something I had planned on doing, but there was also a demand. The hangars are built based on if there is any demand, people who want to have their airplanes here at Smith Mountain Lake.”
According to Bazazan, 80% of the air traffic at the airport is local, people who live at the lake and have their planes there, or lake homeowners who fly-in for weekend getaways. The other 20% are vacationers who are renting lake homes or chartering flights.
“There are about a dozen people who fly in for the weekend,” Bazazan said. “They have a place on the lake, and they have a car here parked in the parking lot. Basically, they fly in, get in the car and go to their lake house.”
In addition to 30 planes owned by locals that are based at the airport, Seaplanes R Fun/SML Aviation owns four airplanes that operate daily. The flight school and sightseeing tours add up to about 10 to 20 flights a day, Bazazan said.
The flight school operates a 1965 Cessna 172G, a 1979 Cessna 172XP and a 1941 Piper J4. Bazazan said because the airport is too small to handle jets, incoming planes are turbo props, as well as other small and medium sized planes.
The airport and everyone who uses it is like family to Bazazan. “Progressive growth is the intention we have for the airport,” he said. “We continue to try to make the airport more user friendly and try to make a community out of it. We have a lovely gathering, a monthly cookout, we try to have the first Friday of every month.
“The pilots and the folks who live around the airport here come.”
The cookouts are open to anyone who is enthusiastic about aviation and wants to learn more.
For more information, contact Smith Mountain Lake Airport at 297-4859 or moe@smlairport. com.