How you can protect your airport

June 16, 2010

It could be as simple as following noise abatement procedures or as involved as organizing resistance to a developer who wants to raze the field: You can help protect your airport.

An airport is not just a place to land or service aircraft; it is an important part of the community--providing jobs and economic activity, supporting medical emergency and public safety flights, and more. But many people do not understand the value of airports, and some want to restrict or close them to see the land redeveloped for other purposes. The AOPA Airport Advocacy and Airport Support Network (ASN) team held its first Webinar June 10 to explain common threats to airports and give pilots the tools they need to protect and promote their valuable community resource.

Airport Support Network volunteers act as AOPA’s first line of defense by alerting the association of threats to an airport, and becoming an ASN volunteer is a great way to get involved if the airport doesn’t already have a volunteer. But all airport users can get involved, said ASN Director Joey Colleran, who hosted the Webinar with a panel of AOPA staff.

“We always say, ‘You don’t have to be a volunteer to be an advocate,’” Colleran said. She added that local advocacy is important to keeping an airport thriving. “We offer expertise and guidance, but it takes the local group and every pilot to work together to ensure the airport’s health.”

Guest speaker Marjy Leggett, an ASN volunteer who led efforts to keep Vista Field in Kennewick, Wash., from being developed as a strip mall, hotel, and golf course, shared the field’s success story and the importance of working together.

“To all of you Airport Support Network volunteers out there, keep in mind that saving an airport is not something you can do alone. You really need a lot of support,” Leggett said.

And AOPA is there to help, Colleran said. The panel of AOPA staff included Colleran and AOPA Vice President of Airport Advocacy Bill Dunn, as well as Manager of Airport Policy John Collins and Pilot Information Center Senior Aviation Technical Specialist Sean Collins. AOPA staff work every day to protect the nation’s 5,200 public-use airports, and they rely on people at the local level to help.

“It’s really important for us to have that early warning system,” said Dunn. “If we know something’s happening before it happens, or it’s being proposed before it happens, it’s a whole lot easier to … develop a strategy to counteract it.”

The webinar was open to all, and those who missed it can watch the archived version online or view the slides. For more information on protecting airports, take the ASN volunteer orientation course and find more resources on the ASN Web page.