Rally Round Your Airport

Your support could help keep the wolves at bay.

Most of us have seen the airports we call home challenged in one way or another. Often, noise is the issue, as once-rural airports see residential development creeping closer and closer. In other cases, the airport property itself is the issue, as developers see prime real estate where we see hangars, runways and a place to keep our airplanes. As aircraft operators, we shoulder at least some responsibility to keep an eye out for those who operate our airports. Without them, and without our support, more of our airports will give way to shopping malls and residential complexes.

A good example is Robertson Airport in Connecticut. Established just after World War II, the property was supported by a local industry that kept its fleet of corporate aircraft there. The owner was promised by the financial backers that the airport would remain an airport; and over the years, that agreement has been honored. But with the passage of time, the originators of the agreement have passed on, and there was some concern among the airport's tenants that the runways could be bulldozed in favor of development.

But local pilot groups joined with national aviation associations such as AOPA and EAA to rally in the defense of Robertson Airport, and the future of the facility appears secure -- at least for now. Many other airports have not been so fortunate. In my home state of New Jersey, we've been losing airports at the rate of one per year for the past five decades.

My own home 'drome, Somerset Airport, has had its share of financially and politically motivated challenges, a circumstance that, I'm sure, applies to most of us who fly. I've done my best to attend local government committee meetings, write letters to the local paper and provide as much moral support as I can for the family owned and operated field. I am embarrassed to say I could have done more; and should have done more.

So I would encourage all of us pilots to get involved, to whatever extent is practical, with helping our airport operators to endure. Ask what's going on with the airport and whether there are any outstanding challenges on the horizon. And try to support the maintenance shops and fuel concessions on the field, even if you could save a few cents per gallon by buying your fuel elsewhere. It could be a good investment. Whether the ownership is private or public, the folks who manage airports are usually a dedicated and unsung bunch. And if you conducted a poll on their income levels, I bet you'd find they could do a lot better by selling off their interests and doing something else for a living. They're not always easy to like (years of battles and under-appreciation can do that to you), but we can't get along without them.

Call to action: If you have any tips of your own you'd like to share, or have any questions about flying technique you'd like answered, send me a note at enewsletter@flyingmag.com. We'd love to hear from you.