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AOPA and local group move to thwart Fort Wayne airport closureAOPA and local group move to thwart Fort Wayne airport closure

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AOPA President Phil Boyer pauses during the day's schedule to look at an historic structure located at Smith Field. Boyer's guide for the airport tour, Bill Decker, explains that the tower is the last operating airways beacon in the nation.

Efforts to foil attempts to close Smith Airport at Fort Wayne, Indiana, got a strong boost Saturday, March 8, when AOPA President Phil Boyer and Vice President of Airports Anne Esposito joined airport supporters and city leaders in a full day of activities, closing with a $100-a-plate dinner at which Boyer keynoted the talks.

Despite support for the airport from neighbors, city officials, and local dignitaries, the Fort Wayne-Allen County Airport Authority had said it plans to close the airport July 1. The appearance of Boyer and Esposito along with local supporters was aimed at seeking a reversal of that decision.

Boyer and Esposito devoted the day to touring the airport, meeting city and county officials, and holding a press conference, which attracted local affiliates of NBC, CBS, and ABC, two local radio news stations, and two local newspapers.

More than 200 persons attended the dinner at which Fort Wayne Mayor Graham A. Richard declared his support for Smith Field. Following Boyer's talk, Mayor Richard said he wants the airport to stay open "for our children, our grandchildren, and their grandchildren." He pledged his support for Smith Field and developing it into an even more valuable asset to the community.

On behalf of pilots everywhere who know the value of communities maintaining good airports, Boyer presented a check for $1,000 to David DeWald, president of SAFE (Smith Airfield ForEver). SAFE sponsored the day's airport support projects, including the dinner to raise funds to continue the airport-saving actions.

In his remarks Boyer praised the efforts of the local group for its work supporting the airport and stressed that only through strong local action along with the national efforts of AOPA can airport problems be resolved. "Most local officials consider national involvement without support of an active community-based effort to be an intrusion," the AOPA president added. Underscoring the point, Boyer cited other airports that have been supported by the joint efforts of local and national actions.

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