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As our annual Toys for Tots event at Oceano Airport wrapped up, I was once again pleasantly surprised by the generosity of our aviation community and grateful for their commitment to charity. In its ninth year, our event, in partnership with the US Marine Corps Reserve, netted fifteen boxes of toys and hundreds of dollars in donations. The toys and the dollars stay in our beachside community and guarantee our local kids have several toys under the Christmas tree.
Looking at the crowded ramp, kids playing in the campground, bi-plane giving rides it is almost hard to remember the threat to our airport by a developer who wanted to put in a housing development. Luckily, we were able to mobilize volunteers to thwart his efforts and keep L52 an airport. Part of the reason I believe we were so successful is that we could become thought leaders for general aviation. A thought leader is one whose views on a subject are taken to be authoritative and influential. For this edition, I decided to write a bit, about how you can become a thought leader in your airport community.
Thought leaders bring credibility and expertise to their subject area. What do you have to offer that is unique? Can you offer physical or mechanical support to your airport? Do you have the ability to present material, write an article, or attend a community meeting? What are your values? What sets you apart from others? A thought leader is someone who knows the value and skills they bring to a subject matter. Identify your strengths and apply them to your home airport or aviation community.
Thought leaders have a purpose and a clear definition of what they want to accomplish. This clarity will be built on your ability to use the previous step. What are your objectives at the airport? Do you want fame or recognition? Do you want more community involvement? To be an expert? Is your purpose change at your airport? If so, what are your goals for change?
Your ability to effectively communicate your expertise and knowledge to your audience is paramount whether it is to local elected officials, community groups, the media, or even the FAA.
A great way to communicate your mission is to write. Letters to the Editor can be a great way to demonstrate you are a thought leader for aviation. If you have the gift for writing, you might also be able to write articles for local newspapers, or maybe even blog about what is going on at your airport. Most type clubs or associations have monthly magazines or newsletters. Why not develop some submissions with a topic that you are passionate about?
Public speaking, educational seminars, and presentations are a great way to become a thought leader for General Aviation. Of course, you will need to make sure that the scope of your presentation lies in an area in which you have expertise.
Effective thought leaders have mastered the art of sharing and putting their message and brand out. Social media including: Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and LinkedIn all can help to keep your message available. Be credible and honorable on the Web. Make sure that your logo, website, letterhead, advertising and social media are all consistent with the message you want for your airport.
Be a mentor. Thought leaders have a drive to have the younger generation even do better than they have. Actions are very powerful. You will be able to share your experiences, triumphs, and failures to your mentee. Think about it. You had someone who mentored you. What did they teach you? How did your mentor influence your involvement in aviation or service? As an ASN, you have learned valuable lessons working on and for your airport. These lessons, if communicated, could save others from having to re-create the wheel.
In sum, we all have the ability to fine tune our skill set and become a thought leader for General Aviation in our communities. That, in turn, will give the community a proven leader to discuss [with authority and credibility] the challenges their airport faces, as well as highlight areas of success and involvement.
A man named Junius Remund founded the Sutter County Airport (O52) at its current location in 1947. He was involved with a local flying club that needed an airstrip and some hangars. The club found about 100 acres on the East side of Sutter County, near the Feather River, and leased it from the County of Sutter for $10 per/ month.
Years later, after the flying club disbanded, and to become eligible for federal funds, Sutter County took over operation of the airport. Sutter County then ran the airport successfully for many years. In the early 2000s, money to fund the airport operation was becoming an issue.
I have been flying from Sutter County Airport since 1977. I soloed in a Piper Cub I owned when I was 16 years old at O52. I have a long history at this little airport and it is my second home. About 6 years ago, there were occasional articles in the local newspaper that the airport was not self-sufficient and was costing the county money every year to keep it afloat. The county was having to loan money to the airport to keep it running. The county's solution was to raise the rent for hangars and on the property that houses 4 businesses on the airport. I had a problem with these news stories and rent increases, considering how the airport seemed to be lacking basic upkeep, such as mowing the weeds.
One afternoon, after a flight, I decided that the 4 foot tall weeds in front of the pilot lounge needed to go. I got my weed wacker and took on the job myself. While doing this and looking at the general condition of the airport, I became angry. Then the thought occurred to me, if I care about my airport this much, I bet many of the other airport users feel the same.
It took me a few months to think about and formulate a plan. When I had budget and airport data in hand, I held a meeting in a hangar at the airport. I mentioned the meeting on Facebook and emailed airport tenants. To my surprise, about 80 people showed up, including county Supervisors and administrators. I presented my plan to the audience and at the end of the meeting, everyone was onboard and wanted to come up with a proposal to present to the county for us to take over the day-to-day operations.
By utilizing social media, email and posters, we were able to organize a large group of local pilots and aircraft owners to form a non-profit organization. With the help of the California Pilot’s Association, we did just that. It was a road paved with red tape, and we couldn’t have not done it without the help of Stephen Whitmarsh of SBRAA, Cal Pilot’s Jay White, Bill Dunn and John Pfeifer of AOPA, along with Corl Leach and Bill Turpie of the Lincoln Regional Pilot’s Association, Harrison Gibbs of the Turlock Regional Aviation Association and Geoff Logan of Business Aviation Insurance Services, Inc.
It took 2 years of negotiations, rewriting contracts and getting insurance coverage to satisfy county risk management before we could take over. In July 2014, we had an airport to run! We have been operating the airport for a little over 2 years and it is very successful. We have no debt, haven't had to raise rents and the airport has never looked better! I am also happy that we lease that same land from the county, not for $10 per month, but for $1 per year! Even better, is that we have Junius Remunds grandson, Todd Remund, who is an active aviator, aircraft owner and very involved airport board member. I am sure that Junius would be happy to know his legacy carries on with his grandson being a part of it.
AOPA Alabama Airport Support Network volunteers took part in a statewide meeting in late summer at Bessemer Municipal Airport, gathering for a morning of discussions on local airport issues and state airport policies. Alabama Aviation Bureau Chief John Eagerton addressed the group and described years of work to bring airports into compliance with state safety standards, noting that only a few airports remain out of compliance. And of those, he said, some minor fixes, such as tree trimming, would bring them into compliance.
Eagerton also discussed funding streams for airports, and the ability of the larger commercial airports to both make money and also attract FAA Airport Improvement Program funds (GA airports get a little over $20 million a year in FAA funding, he said, while the state receives about $50 million total). He added that Alabama provides its general aviation airports with the lowest level of funding among southern states.
That discussion led to a talk by Billy Singleton, of Chilton County Airport, on behalf of the state’s new General Aviation Alliance. Singleton explained how his own airport was nearly closed after he was hired to manage it, and how some hard lobbying on the state level saved it. He noted that general aviation remains a vital revenue stream for dozens of small communities throughout the state, a benefit that is not well understood or publicized.
Adam Williams, AOPA’s manager of airport policy, shared a video AOPA has produced for use by airport volunteers. The video highlights the importance and benefits of general aviation airports, and we hope volunteers will share it with their local elected officials. The video is available for download on You Tube, or AOPA will provide volunteers with a thumb-drive version for their use. There is an 8-minute and a 14-minute version.
Williams and Steve Hedges, AOPA’s Southern Regional Manager, also gave a brief presentation on important changes to AOPA’s airport volunteer program, including the decision to shift management of volunteers to each of AOPA’s seven regional managers.
Bessemer volunteer Jim Johnson organized the event – a first for AOPA – with the assistance of Nikki Jordan, Chairwoman of the Bessemer Airport Authority. The morning meeting ended with a BBQ lunch courtesy of AOPA.
This season is a time for reflection and planning. As we prepare for new legislative sessions in our states, and for a new Congress and President to take their oaths in our nation’s capital, there has been much discussion about what to do next. It seems that everybody has some idea of what our lawmakers should set out to accomplish. As an ASN volunteer, you are active in your community. But how many of your opinionated neighbors or coffee shop pals take any political action themselves? Casting a vote during a highly publicized election is great, but it is only one of many opportunities to make a difference.
A leading airport researcher once told me the top two causes of a permanent airport closure are poor management and bad land use planning. When an airport is first constructed, it is typically on a site that is close enough to be convenient but far enough from the residents to prevent any noise concerns. Little thought may be given to the surrounding land, which is likely to be agricultural or forested. As the demand for housing increases, the land near the airport can be attractive to a developer for new residential development. By the time the demand is recognized and a developer steps forward with a plan to construct housing, it may be too late to prevent residential encroachment of that airport.
Fortunately, it’s not too late for most airports. There may be things that you and your friends can do today to prevent future residential encroachment at your airport. Regulation of land use is a local government matter subject to some state or federal statutes. If your airport is surrounded by agricultural land, chances are the land is not zoned for residential use. Before housing development can begin, the proponent must first get the zoning changed. Generally speaking, zoning designations cannot change without majority support of the voting body with authority over the land in question. Before the vote, there is usually at least one public hearing where community input is accepted. One early sign of a residential development project near your airport is a public notice of a hearing to make a zoning change. This is where local airport advocates can make themselves heard by public officials.
In the spirit of planning for the New Year, you may consider a more proactive approach to this issue. Some zoning jurisdictions have “airport overlay zones,” which add special conditions to existing zoning rules. These serve to prevent certain types of incompatible land use. You may check your local ordinances to see if there is an opportunity to create better zoning rules for your airport or to improve the airport protections that are already on the books.
Some states have taken action to protect airports from incompatible land use. California and Washington have state statutes which prevent future incompatible land use near airports. Other states have published model-zoning ordinances, which may be used by local governments for that purpose. The FAA is expected to release a comprehensive advisory circular on land use in the near future. While these tools are helpful, incompatible land use remains a real threat to airports in most parts of the United States. Land use planning is one area of public policy where local activists can make all the difference.
Saturday February 4, 2017 Buckeye Air Fair, Buckeye Municipal Airport (BXK)
The Buckeye Air Fair is a family fun event in Buckeye, AZ which brings 10,000 people to experience and enjoy aviation first-hand. The event will be hosted February 4, 2017 from 9am - 3pm. Visitors will have the opportunity to see static aviation displays, static military displays and enjoy other activities such as a kid's zone, vendors and entertainment. 000 S/ Palo Verde Rd., Buckeye, Arizona, 85326, Buckeye Municipal Airport (BXK)
Mar 31, - Apr 1, 2017 Marvel of Flight, DeFuniak Springs, Florida (54J)
A celebration of general aviation and fun for the whole family. Join us for two days to celebrate general aviation. Fun for the whole family. Helicopter rides, BBQ cook off, car show, pilot seminars, local vendors, airplane judging, and demonstrations. Patty Wagstaff: Hall Of Fame Aerobatic Champion, Tiger Flight Formation Flight Team, and Army Aviation Heritage Foundation will all be here. Come out for sun, fun, and comradeship. Just miles from the sugar white beaches of Walton County.
Apr 28-30, 2017 Louisiana Tech University Professional Aviation Department AvFest Ruston, Louisiana (KRSN) 50th
Anniversary of the Louisiana Tech Professional Aviation Department at the Ruston, LA
The AvFest is held each year the last weekend of April. It is a chance for all alumni and current students to meet and discuss all aspects of aviation. We have more than 1900 graduates in the industry. This year is a special occasion to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of the program that began in September 1967. All alumni, family, and friends are invited for an update on the program, a tour of the facilities, a barbeque at the hangar and an awards banquet on Saturday night.
April 28 and 29 in Camarillo, California
Sept. 8 and 9 in Norman, Oklahoma
Oct. 6 and 7 in Groton, Connecticut
Oct. 27 and 28 in Tampa, Florida
AOPA Fly-Ins for 2017 will offer more to experience—from camping and camaraderie to workshops and clinics providing opportunities to learn new skills, fly more affordably, offerings for right-seat flyers, or making the jump from aircraft renter to owner. Thanks to a tremendous response from attendees and exhibitors, AOPA has expanded the scope of each of the four 2017 Regional Fly-Ins, adding a second day to allow attendees to experience more hands-on aviation, and more of what has drawn praise and sparked enthusiasm from the nearly 44,000 who have attended an AOPA event to date.The 2017 AOPA Regional Fly-In schedule includes four events and kicks off April 28 and 29 in Camarillo, California, followed by Norman, Oklahoma (Sept. 8 and 9); Groton, Connecticut (Oct. 6 and 7); and Tampa, Florida (Oct. 27 and 28). Each event will feature two full days of activities, including an expanded roster of learning opportunities and workshops beginning on the Friday of each event at 9 a.m. These workshops will cover a range of topics such as mountain flying or owner-performed maintenance, companion safety seminar, fun flying destinations, and others that will help make flying more fun, affordable, safe, and accessible.
Saturday, October 22, 2016, AOPA Wings 'n Wheels, (KFDK) Frederick, MD Municipal Airport
The inaugural Wings ‘n Wheels aircraft, automobile, and motorcycle event that began as a gathering between friends drew almost 2,500 to AOPA’s National Aviation Community Center at the Frederick Municipal Airport in Frederick, Maryland, October 22nd. Attendees inspected and climbed on, in, over, and around 18 aircraft, 75 classic and custom cars, and 50 modern and vintage motorcycles. The marriage of aviation and motoring attracted a family-friendly crowd during a brilliant but blustery fall day.
AOPA Regional Fly-In: September 30th-October 1st, AOPA Regional Fly-In, Ernest A Love Field, KPRC, Prescott, AZ
2016 AOPA Regional Fly-Ins were a smashing success again this year. Attendance was strong and there were many educational and social opportunities for those who came.
Saturday November 12, 2016, Glynn County Youth Aviation Day, (KSSI) Saint Simons Island, Georgia
We had a very successful First Glynn County Youth Aviation Day! Over 15 airplanes and 10 employers and educators participated. Of out approximately 70 students who attended, 20 are interested in visiting Middle Georgia State University's Eastman Aviation campus for tours and to explore the possibilities of careers in aviation! We want to thank all the volunteers and students who made this a reality. We'll see you next fall with an even improved event.