Ray Butters’ experience in aviation, which began when he was a 12-year-old in Detroit, spans 75 years.
Butters retired from the U.S. Air Force after 20 years, holding all ranks from “Buck” private in the Army Air Corps to U.S. Air Force Major. He served as a combat pilot in WWII, Korea and with the French in Vietnam. Butters received the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Good Conduct Medal, five Air Medals and several others.
Upon retirement, Butters worked for the FAA as an air carrier inspector involved in the certification of personnel and aircraft. He held an Airline Transport Pilot License as well as Flight Engineer, Navigator, Dispatcher, Hot Air Balloon and Sea Plane ratings. His foreign licenses are French, German, Iranian, Korean, and Thai, to name a few.
Once he retired from the FAA, Butters moved to France with Airbus Industries and was named deputy flight crew training manager on the Concord, Airbus and Corvette. After seven years, Butters returned to the U.S. with Flight Safety International and trained Lear and Citation aircraft crews. He then served as an aviation consultant and executive vice president for Foxjet Aviation.
In 1995, he moved to South Carolina and became involved with aviation in Lee County, serving as chairman of the Lee County Airport Commission and working with the Young Eagle Program in association with the Experimental Aircraft Association.
As airport commissioner, Butters is credited with making renovations at Lee County Airport a reality. He secured more than $750,000 for the airport and set in motion a five-year Capitol Improvement Program to include airfield lighting, security fencing, a weather system, maintenance/administration building and a paved parking ramp. Plans also include construction of a Fixed Base Operations building, providing a place for passengers, the public and pilots to be afforded tradition airport services.
Lee County received a $560,000 federal grant, and other grants and funding have been secured by Butters, said County Councilman Ron Fountain. When the construction bids were received, the low bid opened at $200,000 more than what was available. Butters went to the FAA and was able to secure the rest of the money, said County Councilman Gordon Eckley.
The single efforts of Airport Commissioner Ray Butters, who worked tirelessly, willingly and feverishly to obtain funding, resolve environmental concerns, and assist the engineer, consultants and the construction company, are commendable. The citizens of Lee County recognized his hard work and named the airport Butters Field in his honor. He has brought aviation to the forefront through sponsorship of Young Eagles youth flight programs and the 3rd Annual Ultra-Light Aircraft Fall Gathering.