What Does Your Airport Do For the Community?

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Toobuilder

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Mojave, Ca
With the increasing focus on the “evil” of leaded fuels and the occasional crash, comes media coverage of GA ops and airport closure discussions. Much of the time this coverage paints GA as nothing more than an exclusive “rich man’s” sport, and frankly, most of the arguments from our side found in the comments block/social media do not help things. While it may be true that the “studies” are flawed, or “the airport was here first”, and plenty of the cars, trucks, RV’s and boats found in these neighborhoods cost more than many of our “rich people’s airplanes”, pointing this out in the comments does not further our cause as ambassadors for GA.

The one thing I think we fall very short of is pointing out how GA benefits the community at large. I know AOPA tried to make this a focus a few years ago, but what I never saw was the specific talking points that we should have at the ready when we comment on social media, we get a news reporters ear, or even meet the neighbors on the street. I know GA airports are part of the national transportation infrastructure – just like freeways, rail, buses, etc – but how do we “translate” that to the non-aviation community? People understand the importance of trains - we have suffered the inconvenience of waiting at a rail crossing – but like GA, few people actually USE trains.

As hard as I try, it is hard for me to come up with any favorable arguments in support of keeping an airport open that does not look self-serving for another “rich guy’s sport”. I know there are many legitimate benefits to the community at large, but this thread is intended to cast a net out to the brain trust to arm us better.

So if someone shoves a microphone in your face and asks: “What does this airport do to serve the local community?”… What is your answer?
 

Daleandee

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SC
Excellent thread!

I oversee a local airport (not the manager but more of a caretaker) seeing that the airport is kept in good repair, and that pilots are flying in a safe & legal manner, & that hangars don't turn into "storage sheds" for household goods.

Airports bring jobs i.e. pilots, mechanics, truck drivers, FBO operators & their staff, etc. They are also used by aerial sprayers of farms, fertilizing trees, operators of equipment for powerline trimming, etc. Our airport is used by Lifecare for transporting critically injured patients to nearby hospitals.

Airports should be the pride of the community. As an example a nearby airport often uses our airport for students of their flight schools to come over and do night practice landings as the pattern at one airport can get a bit crowed. In this way one community shares it's resources with another as a sign of good will.

The local community is part of the larger picture as pilots are needed for those large aircraft that almost all people fly on now and again. Airline pilots need somewhere to train.

People in the community themselves can come for training for recreation, sport, or just for their personal travel.

The local airports will train EAA Young Eagles and this inspires our young children and gives them something to do besides hang out on the internet or ride the street looking for an illegal way to get high.

One of the smaller grass fields in our area helps out the local golf course and restaurant as a number of pilots fly in to go to the restaurant just across the road. This brings money into the community.

This same small airport is used from time to time by our US military for helicopter training purposes.

If you are proud of your community and have sites that many people would want to see then an airport is a great way for many people to have access to your city/town that might not want to spend all day riding in a car to get there.

I'm certain there is much more than this and could be better stated ...
 

TFF

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Memphis, TN
Depending on commerce of the area, big deals are made by people flying small planes. They creep under the radar because it can seem like rich guy. Relative to the regular worker they are, but what is the difference of driving in a new Mercedes or first class air fair in the end. The deals are being made for the area to make money. Bonanzas, King Airs, Citations, and Lears are usually doing business, not joy riding. Little airplane with million dollar signatures riding inside.

My airport is like this, with this sort of traffic as is two others in the area. What they do on purpose is to funnel this type of traffic away from the Class B airport. Some want to arrive at the big airport, but those tend to be for the rare flyer deals. The movers and shakers stay way from the craziness associated with big airports. Even if it is only occasionally in a rural area, it makes a difference if these people can do business and move on quickly. Factories are put in places that this can happen more than not.

More grass roots, every summer city kids who would never get a chance to ride in a plane can. Like EAAs but these are older kids 10-12 grade. A couple hundred show up for it in the summer. EMS helicopters fuel up for return to base. We are close to the main hospital concentration of the city.

On the funny side, one on the edge of town has bathrooms that the patrol officers know they can use without hassle.

We are so lucky to have as many as we do. The US airport system is like a second interstate system. I’m not saying you can’t run out of gas, but you shouldn’t with any reasonable planning. You should be able to go just about anywhere any time. Emergency, business, or fun. Nothing like it anywhere else and in this climate would never be recreated, so they need to be protected.
 

Pops

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You will be glad there is a local airport if you need an organ transplant, etc, etc.
Have helped load body bags in local airports from an auto accidents when sending the bodies back home.
Local county airport has a Medivac Helicopter based there, saving lives.
Factories like to locate close to airports for many reasons.
Airports are a huge benefit to the counties in hundreds of way.

Our little private grass strip is used by the local National Guard Helicopters for practice for nigh infrared flying.
The county emergency director has our grass field airport listed for a way to get help and transportation when the river is up over the roads.
 

D Hillberg

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Nov 23, 2010
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very low low low earth orbit
Noise, Hazardous waste, Gravel parking lots where county launders money, FAA funds squandered, Makes enemies of our new section 8 housing, micro manages local tenants, has a decommissioned power plant on the beach dead center of the runway center line 3 or so miles away, Planes spewing lead filled smoke and dripping oil on all who live below.... But it is IFR certified and it's all mine! Well not really I lust lease a run down hangar and make rude noises like any other home builder....
 

gtae07

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Savannah, Georgia
I'm more familiar with the airport back home... but they host the local Lifeflight helicopter, a CAP bird, a CAF squadron, and the local NWS office. There are also several businesses on the airport (read: jobs) including a flight school, hobby store, Spruce, movie studio(!), and several maintenance facilities, and it's a popular field for smaller business aircraft supporting the companies down the road. They also hold airshows on a semi-regular basis.
 

Mark Z

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Granbury, Texas USA 0TX0
Lowe’s, Home Depot, Walmart, amongst other big box stores have flight departments. Their executives and buyers/marketing directors will visit these stores and do a lot to keep competition high and consumers in the latest products coming to market.
We’re getting a new runway to support these folks as our community grows. If the jet can’t fit in your airport then these guys will go to a community where they can get in (and out). Oh yeah, they buy fuel from an FBO that could be owned by the city. If there is enough business, a big FBO chain might come and buy it. Where folks spend their $$$ the community will flourish.
 

TFF

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Memphis, TN
Sam Walton would fly his Barron to Walmart stores and walk around like a customer looking, then fly back home.
 

Victor Bravo

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KWHP, Los Angeles CA, USA
Here is a document that I had sent in to an ABC news reporter after she interviewed me regarding the airport (part of their train crash coverage). This is focused mostly on the youth programs at our airport KWHP, but some of these "sound bites" are relevant to others too. They can at least be starting points for creating your own versions.

As far as benefits to everyone other than kids, I might add:

For 60+ years, EAA chapters and other aviation associations have created and continue to provide zero-barrier / equality-based access to recreational opportunities for all populations, not just wealthy middle aged white guys.

Aviation is a perfect textbook example of race, gender, and gender identity not being any factor in success or achievement; piloting ability is solely and completely determined by aptitude and commitment... an airplane is perfectly colorblind and is not influenced by politics, gender, race, or belief system.

Airports create jobs (entry level through mid-level executive) directly, and then again through their critical place in the commerce ecosystem.

As the "urban mobility" concept becomes a reality, and as (working) eVTOL or eSTOL commuter vehicles are developed, small local airports will become important parts of the transportation infrastructure. Due to the prohibitive cost of building new transportation infrastructure (freeways, rail, subway), more and more emphasis will be put on ways for people to live in the suburbs and commute to employment centers and cities... a small local airport will allow many people to choose that community for buying or building a home, enormously contributing to the local economy, land values, jobs, local industry growth, etc.
 

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Hot Wings

Grumpy Cynic
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Rocky Mountains
So if someone shoves a microphone in your face and asks: “What does this airport do to serve the local community?”… What is your answer?
That, for me after thinking about it for more than a few minutes, turns out to be a pretty had question to answer. If everything aviation except the commercial flights (including FedX and UPS) were to disappear here, other than the loss of wages to about 3 dozen people, I'd have to admit that the net economic change to the community could likely be positive.

The local medical helicopter is on lease and only buys fuel. It gets swapped out for maintenance.
An aircraft fire fighting school trains here. We can all see the black smoke from town a couple of times a year.
We are an international airport but the unscheduled pilots coming in from Canada know that they may have to wait in the plane for an hour or more before Dale shows up to inspect.
A few years ago one of the local rich guys managed to get a railroad spur built to the free trade zone. As far as I know it hasn't been used, or if the free trade zone is still active.
We get tankers during fire season.
The avionics shop is probably the only aviation business on the field that has a net positive income for our community. The rest are just trading dollars, or sending them out.

Compare this to the local heavily subsidized ski slope and golf courses that are still in operation even after they have been unable to demonstrate their "Positive, but indirect, impact on the local economy due to increased commerce brought in due to our leisure services operations". They actually claim people travel here to ski the sprayed rock fields on the hill or walk the goose guano covered fairways.

This is a really tough question to answer in a positive way to the average person whose only direct contact with the airport is when they fly commercial. :(
I'll be watching for some ideas to better demonstrate the value of our airport to the community as a whole.
 

Tiger Tim

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Apr 26, 2013
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Thunder Bay
I fly an air ambulance daily into small community airports that are under constant threat of closure. Many only still have instrument approaches so that we can get in when the weather is bad.
 

Tiger Tim

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Thunder Bay
I should say I find it unfortunate that we’re the only thing they keep the lights on for, but at least it provides an ongoing framework for the airport to become visibly important to the community in other ways… if they choose to do so.
 

Daleandee

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SC
I should say I find it unfortunate that we’re the only thing they keep the lights on for, but at least it provides an ongoing framework for the airport to become visibly important to the community in other ways… if they choose to do so.
You make an excellent point (counter point) ... "if they choose to do so."

When the question is asked "What does this airport do to serve the local community?" it might be well to ask how the local community embraces the local airport and does the community take the time to consider the worth of having a local airport. Do they use the airport for the resources it can provide to the community?
 

Pops

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About 20 years ago there was a grass runway parallel with the main shopping strip in a town about 15 miles away from our field. McDonald's had a sign of "caution low flying airplanes" in their parking lot at the end of the runway. Fly in and go shopping for about anything with a short walk. Several restaurants, all the fast foods, drug stores, food supermarkets, auto parts stores, furniture stores, etc, etc. Almost always a couple airplanes setting at the tie downs of people flying in and shopping. Owner said as long as he was alive it would be an airport. He died and a couple months latter the airport become one big storage rental units. Every time I drive by it makes me sick. Was another about 10 miles away with the towns shopping district a short walk. That was where I would call in delivered pizza and get it delivered to my airplane setting at the end of the grass runway. 8 minutes from engine start up to engine shut down from my hanger. It went the same way, owner died and family sold it.
I wish the good old days were still here.
 

Kyle Boatright

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Nov 11, 2012
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Marietta, GA
My home field is the home base of Phoenix Air. They do a lot of light cargo for Uncle Sam, used to do Radio Marti down in the Keys, and play a lot of wargame stuff with the USAF and USN. They employ a bunch of people (pilots, tech's, mechanics) locally to support that operation. They also have a flight school which has put numerous guys in the left seat of airliners and into other professional flying jobs. Beyond that, the airport has a composite repair shop, a paint shop, and several independent mechanics and flight instructors. Bottom line, the airport is the home of a couple of hundred jobs in the community and provides jobs and training pointing to a number of careers.

Add to that it provides a base for Young Eagles flights, Medevac Op's, CAP, and probably a bunch of other things that don't come to mind immediately.
 
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