June 5, 2008
By AOPA ePublishing staff
It took unprecedented dedication and cooperation from politicians, pilots, and communities at large to create what some involved have called a miracle—the reopening of a general aviation airport four years after it closed.
A ceremony reopening Lanett Airport in Alabama was held May 21, thanks to residents and political leaders in four cities and two states. AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Mike Ballard was actively involved in raising community awareness and support for the airport, preparing necessary paperwork, and working with city and FAA officials.
“To finally achieve this goal is very fulfilling but also exhausting,” Ballard said, noting that it took a combination of perseverance, cooperation, and a drive for economic development that led to the opening of a new automotive manufacturing plant just five miles from the field, a plant that will bring jobs to the once-depressed area and benefit from easy access to an airport.
Other factors included the dedication of local politicians. In fact, Lanett Mayor Oscar Crowley campaigned on a promise to reopen the airport—a promise he was able to fulfill. And Crowley was by no means the only elected official who worked to get the airport back in business.
Leaders from the cities of Lanett, Valley, and Lafayette in Ala., and West Point in Ga. banded together to promote the airport and keep the project on track. During the reopening ceremonies, Valley Mayor Arnold Leak recognized the exceptional cooperation that brought the airport “back from the dead” and looked ahead to the addition of another runway.
A touch of history, affordable flying, unique sightseeing, a good meal, and a community of pilots: Isn’t that what general aviation is all about?
Getting the job done on the local and national levels requires long-term planning, a hands-on approach, and keeping the effort moving, said Sean Collins, AOPA’s Eastern regional manager.
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