Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Willard Gathings ‘Will’ Plentl Jr., 73, former airport director at New Hanover International Airport

Willard Gathings 'Will' Plentl Jr.
Willard Gathings ‘Will’ Plentl Jr.

DAVIDSON — On Saturday, March 23, 2019, at the early age of 73, Will decided it was time to go flying with the eagles. He was born to the late Lt. Col. Willard G. Plentl Sr. and Gloria Belle Plentl in Houston, Texas. His brother, John Patrick Plentl, preceded him in death.

Will had a distinguished military career serving in the U.S. Air Force, North Carolina National Guard and the Reserve. He was a pilot and a professional engineer earning a B.S. Degree in Civil Engineering from the Virginia Military Institute in 1967. He began his aviation career as an Air Force supervising engineer at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, where he supported construction, research and development and worked on Air Force operations under system command, airfield selection and contingencies and supervised engineering and construction regarding Boeing and McDonnell Douglas.

After Wright-Patterson AFB, he served as an aviation engineer for Florida’s Department of Transportation which prepared him for his next role as the aviation director for the State of North Carolina.

He developed flight services; pioneered state construction standards for North Carolina and the Southeast. Throughout his years with the NCDOT-Aviation, he developed and honed managerial expertise navigating the state and federal bureaucracies for aviation transportation systems, block grants and addressed business and tourism needs.

He then became the airport director for the New Hanover International Airport in Wilmington, where he increased hub options and brought one-stop connecting services to 141 domestic and 22 international markets. His next opportunity became the deputy director at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport where he lead them to both a world top-five and top-10 ranking for operations. He also managed employee, customer, vendor and carrier interests and programs. To add to his accomplishments, he developed the CLT Center for multiple airport operations and the establishment of a USO center at the airport. After retiring, he began working as an aviation consultant with Parrish and Partners.

All through his career, Will was actively involved in the First Flight Foundation beginning in the early 1990s. He served on the First Flight Centennial Dec. 17, 2003. He was a life member and past president of the First Flight Society and then president of the First Flight Foundation. During his career, he received numerous awards and was a two-time recipient of the North Carolina’s highest honor — the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, awarded by Governor Martin in 1992 and by Governor Hunt in 1997.

Will was a wonderful husband, father, Papa and brother. He is survived by his high school sweetheart and loving wife of 51 years, Ann; two amazing sons, Willard G. Plentl II (Maria) and Jeffrey S. Pentl (Sarah); four grandchildren, Morgan, Tanner, Cooper and Wynn; special great-niece, Jennifer; sister, Joy Plentl Hensley (Mike); mother-in-law, Ruth Flowers; and many nieces, nephews, other family and friends.

Visitations will be held from 6 to 8 p.m., Thursday, April 11, and from noon to 12:45 p.m., Friday, April 12, at Mitchell Funeral Home, 7209 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh. Funeral services will be held at 1 p.m., Friday, April 12, at the funeral home chapel, with burial and military honors to follow in Raleigh Memorial Park.

In lieu of flowers, please donate to your favorite charity in memory of Will.

Share online condolences with the family at Mitchell Funeral & Cremation Services at Raleigh Memorial Park.

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