AOPA Airport Support Network
The AOPA Airport Support Program and the AOPA Airport Support Network
Obtaining community support for your local airport
What is the AOPA Airport Support Network?
The continuing loss of public-use airports one per week for over 20 years is an obvious threat to general aviation. Most closures result from urban/surburban encroachment, unbridled land development, and a community's lack of political will to save the local airport.
Local governments often fail to protect their airports because they simply don't understand their airport's true value to the community. Little or no positive public opinion is focused on the question. In most cases, only those who object to airport noise, and those who stand to profit from destroying the airport, are vocal. Consequently, developers who want land for malls and condos find it easy to get their way and never mind the loss of an irreplaceable community asset.
To help local pilot groups and other airport advocates muster public understanding and political support, AOPA is building the Airport Support Network (ASN). We're recruiting AOPA members at public-use general aviation airports across the nation to monitor the local airport situation and alert AOPA headquarters to emerging problems. Too often, AOPA members ask for help only when it's too late.
Our first goal: an ASN volunteer at each of 750 key airports. Eventually, we plan for one AOPA volunteer at every public-use GA airport in the country.
Airport Support Network designees will usually be those active in local pilot associations or other advocacy groups. They will function primarily as an early warning system, calling up support in time to avoid serious problems. They are not expected to resolve situations by themselves, but they will pitch in and help.
When an ASN volunteer is designated for your airport, by all means cooperate with him or her in monitoring airport affairs. Remember: Once an airport is under attack, it may be too late to mount effective resistance!
The crucial step is organizing and maintaining an airport support group. Ideally, it should include in addition to pilots representatives of the airport administration, FBOs and other on-airport businesses, companies that use the airport for staff transportation or shipping products, corporations that operate aircraft at the airport, and law enforcement agencies and medical evacuation operations that use the airport.
By including these other organizations, the support group will gain credibility in the eyes of the community and avoid the appearance of a self-interested group of recreational fliers.
AOPA's Airport Support Program
Organizing your airport group
Based on the experience of successful groups around the nation, learn how to:
- Analyze existing and potential problems at your airport
- Convince community leaders to lend their expertise
- Set agendas and hold public meetings
- Develop coalitions with public-interest, business, and government organizations
- Exploit resources available through AOPA
Public relations and political action
Communication is the key to understanding, so a public relations plan is essential.
- Research public opinion
- Write and distribute news releases, news photos, press advisories, and letters to the editor
- Perform community outreach
- Enlist the aid of local, state, and federal officials
- Attend and participate in local government meetings
- Mount an effective airport awareness campaign
What's your airport worth?
Most communities have no idea of the economic benefits they derive from their local airport. AOPA uses a nationally accepted formula for calculating the direct, indirect, and induced economic impacts of your airport. We'll furnish detailed instructions on how to prepare a cost/benefit analysis and determine your airport's contribution to the local economy and tax base.
This is a key ingredient in airport advocacy. While the public may not understand the "operational" benefits of an airport, they can be persuaded by the airport's economic benefits.
AOPA's Airport Support Program also offers these references:
- FAA regional offices, FAA airport district offices, and state aviation offices
- State and national statistics on general aviation economic impact, airport activity, airman certification, and more
- Sample speeches
- Sample support group bylaws
- Sample newsletters from successful airport support groups
Airport safety, noise, and land use planning
Airport opponents often exploit the community's latent fears regarding aircraft noise and safety. Learn how to mount an education campaign to effectively counter misinformation. Develop programs to reduce the airport's perceived impact on people nearby and distribute voluntary noise abatement procedures. AOPA can help with perspectives on residential encroachment, land use planning, zoning, building codes, real estate disclosure, and land acquisition. National safety statistics can quantify the minimal danger that aircraft operations pose to the surrounding community.
AOPA can provide guidance and resources to help you organize a support group for your airport, or to extend and improve the effectiveness of an existing group. A basic resource is the AOPA Airport Support Program and its Guide to Obtaining Community Support for Your Local Airport.
This manual was developed from actual case studies of support groups across the nation that successfully defended their airports. Their experience charts an effective course to successful, timely defense of your airport.
To obtain a copy of the AOPA Airport Support Program manual for your pilot association or other airport advocacy group, call 1-800-USA-AOPA and ask for Aviation Services, or write to:
AOPA Airport Support Program
421 Aviation Way
Frederick, MD 21701-4798
Other AOPA resources for airport public relations include Fly-a-Reporter, Fly-a-Teacher, and Fly-a-Leader brochures, Aviation Fact Sheets and Fact Cards, and guidance on Writing a Letter to the Editor, Communicating with Elected Officials, A Teacher's Guide to Aviation, and more. Reasonable quantities available on request. Also available are two videotapes: Flying Friendly and Local Airports Access to America.
For more information about the AOPA Airport Support Network, visit our Web site.