Those who lived through it know where they were when they first heard the Beatles, when man first stepped on the moon or, sadly, when planes crashed into the World Trade Center. On a more personal level there are life events that are elevated to the same status such as a wedding day or the birth of a child. For pilots, there are several occasions that meet these standards. Every pilot remembers their first solo, earning their private pilot’s license and probably even the tail number of the airplanes those feats were accomplished in (for me it was a Cessna 152 N5493L).
Both of these milestones took place in the summer of 2004 at picturesque Blue Ash Airport. Blue Ash is a cozy little airport, about 16 miles northeast of Cincinnati. It has a unique taxiway that guides you through a little forest of trees as it winds towards the run-up for runway 6. I fondly remember the summer evenings when I would take advantage of my newly minted solo endorsement. It was at KISZ that I literally mastered takeoffs and landings and built bit-by-bit the confidence, knowledge, and skills necessary to earn my private pilot's certificate. As a result, that airport holds a very special place in my heart.
In 2005 I moved away from Cincinnati and as a result it has been seven years since I last touched down at Blue Ash. However, the hundreds of patterns flown over runway 6/24 are ingrained in my memory and I can still visualize my sight picture as I work through the pattern for touchdown on runway 6.
So it is with a heavy heart that I learned the City of Cincinnati, which owns and operates the airport, has sent a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration notifying them of its plan to shut down the airport within 90 days. I published a blog post 6 years ago in which I labeled the Blue Ash Airport as endangered. Since then, AOPA and its members as well as local advocates have fought to keep this airport open. For a while it looked like there may be opportunities for the airport to survive, however this recent notice is a grave turn for the worse.
Unfortunately, we will continue to see more and more airports becoming endangered and then closed if we as pilots and prospective pilots don't continue to fight the attrition of the pilot population. It is vital that we help share our passion for aviation with our friends, family and neighbors. AOPA's 2012 theme is "Keep 'em Flying", an initiative to keep pilots active and to inspire new pilots. Student pilots and certificated pilots need to get more active in sharing the benefits of General Aviation with those around us. Those we influence may not all rush out to take an introductory flight but they might take away a new respect for and understanding of the benefits of General Aviation and their support will help in the fight against airport closure.
For my part I am proud that I helped inspire my neighbor, who had logged a handful of hours of flight training more than five years ago, to return to flying after a long hiatus. Along the way I would check in with him and encourage him however I could. Last month he earned his Private Pilot Certificate. My pilot posse has grown by one and we are out to inspire and enlist more pilots, I hope you will do the same!