Of course, other media picked up the story, including USAToday partner, the NBC Today Show, which aired a nearly as misbalanced piece.
AOPA responded immediately with a statement and a story on our Home page.
Fortunately, as noted in the AOPA story, some local media also picked up on the story and then found out that their local airports really are an asset.
Unfortunately, what the major national media like to focus on is the perceived class war between “rich pilots” and the rest of the world. Never mind that pilots every day fly thousands of volunteer mercy missions from GA airports for man and animal. Firefighting flights depart from remote strips to reach forest fires. Yes, those airports–along with the airline airports–receive funding from the FAA–most of it provided by fuel and passenger taxes paid by GA pilots and airline passengers. Little of it from the general fund. Similar formulas fund the U.S. highway system.
To a certain extent, this is a case of not just a misperception about “rich pilots,” but also a misperception by the majority of people who live near urban centers about the rest of the population, which lives outside the beltway.
For rural communities many highway miles from the nearest airline airport, small airports are their only link to the rest of the world. As pointed out in the USAToday comments, a mile of highway gets you a mile. A mile of runway gets you anywhere. Ask the taxpaying U.S. citizens in rural America which they would rather have and I’ll bet the answer will universally be a mile of runway.