Aviation 'critical' to Washington state economy

May 3, 2012

Pilots in Washington state have a new resource for demonstrating the “critical” contribution aviation makes to their communities, and beyond.

According to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) Aviation Division’s newly released 2012 Statewide Aviation Economic Impact Study, airport-related activity generated by the state’s 135 public-use airports creates 248,500 jobs, provides $15.3 billion in wages, and sets $50.9 billion in total economic activity in motion.

That activity generated more than $792 million in tax revenue, based on 2009 data, of which $548 million goes to the general fund, with $243 million benefiting cities, counties, special districts, and other local jurisdictions, the report said.

“Aviation has been critical to Washington’s economy for decades, a legacy I have been proud to support,” said Gov. Chris Gregoire. “This report gives us the best picture yet of how our public-use airports facilitate good jobs, business activity, access to medical care, disaster relief, law enforcement, and a host of important resources to communities across the state of Washington.”

The report updates data gathered for a 2001 study.

“The 2012 study results speak for themselves—and the message is overwhelmingly positive,” said Tristan Atkins, WSDOT’s aviation director, in a news release.

More than 97 percent of Washington’s Gross Business Income is produced by businesses located within 10 miles of an airport, said the document which was drafted for use in moving the state’s aviation system plan policies forward.

The state’s aerospace industry was credited with producing more than 30 percent of the nation’s aerospace exports.

The report estimated that pilots invest between $15 million and $35 million in flight training, and that personal air transportation provides “access, mobility, and freedom to travel the region, state and beyond, especially time-sensitive trips to areas with poor access via other modes.”

Altogether, Washington state’s 135 airports “are an economic engine for the state and integral to the transportation system,” the report said.

The report provided a view on general aviation’s contribution to the economy and public health, profiling how the Pacific Cataract and Laser Institute (PCLI) uses aircraft to coordinate services at 10 locations.

“While each of the offices has trained and professional staff, PCLI flies their specialized surgeons throughout their clinic network to expand their reach and capabilities,” it said. “For PCLI, it does not make economic sense to have a specialized surgeon or surgeons at every clinic when they can easily fly them in on the three private aircraft they have based at Chehalis-Centralia Airport.”

When examining sites for new clinics, the company “looks specifically for sites close to airports to leverage their business model,” it said.

“AOPA encourages Washington pilots to familiarize themselves with the report’s findings, and share them with key officials,” said Greg Pecoraro, AOPA vice president of airports and state advocacy. “Educating decision makers about the value of general aviation is our best tool in advocating for sound aviation policies.”

The report is available for download from the WSDOT aviation website.