Do Nothing, suffer the consequences
There are Positive Steps which can help
FAA, AOPA & NBAA can help
This article fully explains the phenomena of closing of small airports. The author included several useful quotes:
“He wonders aloud if it's anybody that he knows. The attrition that he's witnessed over the past few years reflects the state of general aviation (private and recreational) in the U.S. The number of licensed pilots has been waning for decades. And the seeming lack of interest is giving some cities a reason to close their community airports. ‘Flying has become somewhat blasé to most people,’ says Glen, 53, who worries about the growing number of pilots that are aging out. He's been trying to get his teenage son interested in aviation. …. But coexistence hasn't been easy for host cities that have grown in every direction. Residents have fought cities over airport noise and pollution. Large tracts of increasingly valuable but underused land have become tempting targets for real estate developers that have dangled big checks under the noses of cash-strapped cities. Eight small California airports have been shuttered over the past 11 years, says Melissa McCaffrey, regional manager for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) in Frederick, Maryland. "There's always going to be vested interest and folks that would like to see the airport be used in other ways, she says. Unfortunately, the rising cost of California real estate makes it unlikely that another airport will be built to replace it. …. …fought against city ballot Measure A that proposed closing Hawthorne Municipal Airport in 2001. Paladin Partners, a real estate developer based in Los Angeles, wanted to build a stadium and entertainment complex. Carey rallied the local aviation community and went door to door. He talked about the importance of having a community airport and mentioned how small airports are often used as a staging area for civil emergencies like fighting wildfires. He also proposed ways to attract more business to the underused facility. The grassroots efforts paid off. Despite being outspent by Paladin 12 to 1, over 70 percent of Hawthorne voters chose to keep the airport. The city finally committed to improving the airport by adding new hangers and a modernized runway that handles overflow from LAX. Elon Musk's SpaceX has since moved into the old Northrop factory that neighbors the airport; and the industrial area around the airport is turning into a hip destination with gastro pubs and coffee houses. …. ‘We're not in it for the money. General aviation has never been a big moneymaker for anybody which is part of the problem for shortsighted cities,’ says Cable who has turned down offers of more than $100 million for his airport. ‘We're in it because we have a passion for aviation. We have a passion for what this stands for. This community is a dedicated group of people that's committed to keeping aviation alive. I feel confident about that.’”
That’s the bad news and the threat is real. As the contrast between the two airport stories—success and failure—suggests, the active airport community tactic works over the do nothing approach.
Here’s an article, which has laid out some relevant numbers, although a bit dated:
Here’s where U.S. aviation stands right now:
19,000 airports, heliports, seaplane bases in total in U.S.
5,200 public use airports
3,330 are included in FAA National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIHS)
There are 378 primary airports plus another 2,952 landing facilities (2903 are airports, 10 heliports, 39 seaplane bases)
121 of these smaller airfield facilities support limited air service and across the system serve from 2500 to 10,000 passengers a year
Why we need our local airports and aviation in general.
General Aviation supports nearly 1.3 million jobs across the United States
GA provides almost $150 billion in total economic activity annually
Smaller airports serve as bases for many vital community services including medical airlifts, firefighting, survey work, traffic reporting, weather reporting and parcel delivery
An estimated 65% of general aviation flightsare conducted for business and public services that need transportation more flexible than the airlines.
So, what should the supporters of a GA Airport do?
- Use the available FAA resources! An airport, which keeps its plan up-to-date, which has defined its role and its eligible needs, and which has taken proactive noise actions, is less likely to be closed. There is a page devoted to master planning, forecasting, environmental guidance and other tools. USE THEM, most are AIP eligible. Yes, the associated processes are painful, and politicians may want to avoid them, but the “games” are played on aviation turf. Be organized and get good help. The airport manager may need encouragement; remind him the bigger his facilities, the greater the job security.
- Join AOPA’s Airport Support Network and connect with their resources: The AOPA Airport Support Network provides the vehicle for AOPA members to work in concert with AOPA staff to preserve and protect airports across the United States. The folks in Frederick, MD have experience in dealing with these issues; so, contact them BEFORE the whispers of closure begin to be heard. The GA airport defense team has resources and are the best in beating back these attacks.
3. If your airport has a significant set of business aircraft, contact an NBAA regional representative, too.
4. Consider contacting (i) your state aviation office, (ii) your state legislators and (iii) your federal elected officials: NOTE: the decision to make any of these connections should be done with the help of AOPA and/or NBAA. The trade associations will know what the likely predisposition of these people will be as to airport issues. Some of these officials are known to be good advocates for airports; others, not so much; and many unknown. The State Aviation Department will hopefully be ready to and good at supporting their airport assets and many have brochures like this one:
As to elected officials, IT IS EXCEEDINGLY IMPORTANT TO BRIEF THEM BEFORE A “FIRE” BEGINS TO BREAK OUT. Your pitch is best delivered as educational, i.e. why airport brings jobs to your constituents. Once a debate becomes public, you are behind. Events, which include an official in a room with many worker/voters, can draw positive supportive comments (to be remembered later) ; if there has been a negative article, your guest of honor will likely listen and say NOTHING.
- Look for opportunities to “sell” the positive nature of your airport asset:
- offer open house and free rides on holidays;
- when a new company/employer comes to town, try to get the airport manager to let the newspaper know that they chose the town because the business aircraft will connect your community to regional/national/international commerce;
- when a based aircraft carries a patient to a hospital for emergency care, make sure that there is a public interest story about the aviation save; etc.us, etc., etc.;
- using FAA or AOPA resources, conduct an economic impact study of the jobs, taxes, etc. which the airport contributes.
- Create an informal GA noise team—the local pilots know who the problem may be. It’s the retired Navy/USAF/Army fighter jockey who tries to recreate the thrill of a max thrust takeoff back when he/she flew for the military. Invite the airwoman/airman, who is disturbing the neighborhood with the noise blast, out for a beer and explain that the thrust excursion may result in the airport closure. Buy a copy of Top Gun for virtual reality use and ask the behavior to stop. If intervention #1 does not stop, escalate, get a Three Star to deliver the ORDER.
- THE KEY: Be smart, be creative, be sensitive to your audience and convey what the airport contributes to the community
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