Representatives of a maker of surveillance planes at Lake Norman Air Park tried to assure residents on Monday night that its operations are above-board and don’t put the community at risk.
Residents of the park off Perth and Catawba Air roads have expressed concerns this year that planes outfitted by IOMAX come with missile holders. They’ve emailed photos of the planes to the Observer showing what appear to be the missile holders.
Lee Moritz, IOMAX marketing director, told about 20 residents at a community meeting at the air park that the company simulates the weight of the missiles in the holders but has never put a missile on its planes at the park and never will.
“They’re mock-ups,” Moritz said. “There will never be live ordnance at this airport.”
IOMAX equips new crop-duster planes with intelligence and surveillance equipment for the U.S. government and its allies. It trademarked the name Archangel for its planes.
Any live ordnance would be installed in the countries where the planes are sent, Moritz said.
The planes IOMAX equips provide border security for Afghanistan and other countries, Moritz said.
Moritz said IOMAX founder Ron Howard, a disabled veteran and North Carolina native, “wants to be good neighbors. We try to say what we’re going to do and do what we say.”
Howard, who retired after 32 years as an Army helicopter pilot, also owns the air park’s fixed-base operator, GA Airport LLC, with his son K.C.
GA Airport scheduled Monday’s community meeting, required by Iredell County, as IOMAX seeks to rezone three hangars at the air park so they fall under the same zoning designation.
Hangars and land at Lake Norman Air Park have been “spot-zoned” over the years, meaning different property owners have received different zoning designations.
IOMAX’s corporate offices are in River Park Business Park off N.C. 150 in Mooresville.
IOMAX was founded in the Catawba County community of Terrell in 2001, later moved to Denver, N.C., and opened its Mooresville headquarters in 2009.
In June 2013, Gov. Pat McCrory announced that IOMAX planned to add 35 high-tech jobs during a $1.75 million plant expansion over three years. Salaries vary by job function, but the average annual wage is about $64,970, state officials said. IOMAX now employs 80 to 90 workers in Mooresville, Moritz said.
Residents at Monday’s meeting said they’re concerned about the 40-some uses that would still be allowed under the new zoning designation, including car washes and other 24-hour businesses, if the Howards ever sell their hangars. They said they hope to work with the Howards to eliminate such uses from the zoning.