Airports are like gardens. If you don't water the plants, clean out the weeds, and avoid walking on the tulips, they will die. Airports need care, and that means they need money to keep them running and safe. There is evidence of this as one airport after another closes. Here is the basic pattern: The airport is neglected, the runways crack, the land becomes an eyesore and the community says "let's build a mall instead." That is why the recent CBS Evening News report that cast a critical eye on stimulus money going to small, general aviation airports was off the mark.
The report by Sharyl Attkisson noted that small, rural airports are receiving millions in stimulus money, while safety issues at larger airports are not being addressed. Specifically, the report cited an upstate New York airport that received $400,000 for a new runway and noted that the town of Ouizinkie, Alaska- population 165- received $15 million dollars for its new airport.
The CBS story was fairly balanced (though the ending was a bit sarcastic). The reporter noted that many rescue operations- such as medevac services- originate from small airports. And the report mentioned that small airports provide jobs.
But what CBS did not convey is the overall importance small airports play to communities and busineeses. There are more than five thousand of them nationwide. These airports are not just for "recreational pilots." According to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, only 350 communities have scheduled airline service. The rest are served by general aviation airports. Many non-aviation businesses will tell you that general aviation airports are essential to their business. And as far as that town in Alaska is concerned? Airplanes are as important to Alaskans as hockey is to Canadians.
Do you really think Chicago is better off without Meigs Field? Or Atlantic City without Bader? I'd guess both communities miss their small field.
So why not spend some stimulus money insuring that a key part of the American way of life goes on in a safe and economic manner?
Building condos will always bring in more money. But airports are often far more valuable.