Your connection with the sky

Getting Involved with Your Local Airport

Oakland County International Airport (KPTK; "Pontiac")

As an aviation and aerospace podcaster, this is always a unique time of the year for me.  By now, airshow season in the northern United States is over and I usually have a huge pile of content from the season that I can sit back and really think about. 

It’s not that I don’t fly or go after great experiences in the winter (in fact, the Super D gets great hang-time on the hammerheads during the colder weather!), but the pace slows up a little.  Year-end stuff at work is going to keep me out of the sky to some extent and I’m not actively working on any particular rating again until spring.  Many of my fellow aviators and aviation enthusiasts are also scaling back a little, too.

The important thing is that we all have time to think.  About next summer.  About what aviation means to us.  And we have time to make plans and set agendas.

In particular, I’ve been thinking a lot about my local airport.  I fly primarily out of Oakland County International Airport (KPTK or “Pontiac”), where Sutton Aviation rents me aerobatic trainers andprovides instructors and where the CAP Michigan Wing’s glass-cockpit C-182T Nav III is based.  The picture above shows the ramp there during the airport’s open house on 16 August.  I took it from the back seat of one of CAP’s gliders during a demo flight (and, yeah, I got to log it).

Now is a good time to get involved with your local airport.  To make the calls and hit a meeting or two to really understand what’s going on in the pilot community there and to understand how the airport is faring among its many constituencies.

It’s easy to think of pilots and passengers as being the only constituencies of the local airport.  But it’s a lot broader than that.  The surrounding community is a big consideration.  Most of the people over whose homes we fly are non-pilots and, unbelievable as we might think it, many don’t particularly like aviation or aviators.  Many of them think of us as a nuisance because of the noise we make and might even harbor fears that one of us might drop a Cherokee in their yard someday.  And no noise abatement program or commitment to safety is going to change their minds.

Unless we get out there and take our message to them.  Your local community of pilots, maintainers, controllers, and others is very well positioned to help do that.  After all, those folks know the facts and are probably able to express their excitement about aviation in a genuine way that can reach members of the community.  And, by the way, if you’re reading this, you’re probably one of those actual or potential communicators that I’m talking about.

This is a great time of year to make a few phone calls and get involved in the promotion and support of your local airport.  The operational tempo is a little slower and we can all take a little time to attend a meeting, take on a volunteer opportunity, or simply become more informed about the airport and its constituencies.  And it’s never too early to get involved in the planning for next summer’s activities like open houses, airshows, and other events.  Believe me, it’s already going on.

The AOPA Airport Support Network (“ASN”) is a good place to start.  Check out http://www.aopa.org/asn/, where you can find out who the ASN volunteer is for your airport and, if you’re an AOPA member, you can e-mail the volunteer directly from the ASN web page.  The page also has a lot of great downloadable resources, including AOPA’s Guide for Airport Advocates: Participating in the Planning Process; AOPA’s Guide to Airport Noise and Compatible Land Use; and The Complete Guide to Holding an Airport Open House.

Not every airport is under threat from its local community, a fact that is due in no small part to the efforts of AOPA, EAA, and other groups.  In those cases, you can join in the effort to keep the ball rolling and make sure that the message continues to go out to the community.

Some airports are under threat from development, encroachment, and just plain misunderstanding.  If your local airport is one of those embattled facilities, ASN can help you to find out how to help protect the airport and communicate effectively with your friends and neighbors about it.

And it doesn’t stop there.  You might find local pilot groups, EAA chapters, IAC chapters, CAP squadrons, and others who share your love of aviation.  You won’t know until you start poking around and getting involved.

It’s a great time to pick up the phone and use these colder months to get involved at your local airport.  Some of your best friends are probably waiting to meet you.

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