By Nathan A. Ferguson
Dozens of Airport Support Network (ASN) volunteers met Oct. 5 to learn how to help make pilots safer.
As part of a new partnership, ASN and the AOPA Air Safety Foundation have teamed to provide volunteers with free Safety Seminar kits. Topics offered are "Maneuvering Flight" and "Ups and Downs of Takeoffs and Landings."
Safety Seminar kits include a seminar DVD, which usually runs 60 minutes, a resources CD, announcement poster, invitations, and registration cards. The step-by-step seminar allows any pilot to feel comfortable leading the seminar for his or her airport group.
ASN volunteers can request one or both of the free kits by e-mail.
Aviation can't exist without airports. And communities can't remain vibrant if they cut themselves off from the rest of the world.
Promote. Protect. Defend.
Those are the marching orders for the AOPA Airport Support Network program. "Saving airports is not just for a national organization in Washington, D.C.," said AOPA President Phil Boyer, introducing Expo's second of three General Sessions.
The day, Oct. 5, marked the 10-year anniversary of the program. Video testimonies from ASN volunteers illustrated how it works. The volunteers provide an early warning system and contact AOPA when they hear about threats to their airports. AOPA, in turn, provides a national perspective by offering support and advice based on its decades of experience in working airport issues.
There are now more than 1,900 ASN volunteers and 100 of them attended this year's Expo in Hartford, Conn. They received a round of applause from the crowd after they were introduced by AOPA ASN Director Stacy Swigart.
As the number of volunteers have increased, the rate of airport closures has decreased. But it's still a slow leak. There were 6,611 public-use airports in 1970, and there are about 5,000 now.
Boyer and AOPA Vice President of Airports Bill Dunn highlighted some of the successful efforts such as saving Florida's Albert Whitted Airport and forcing a developer to remove two floors from a too-tall building in San Diego.
Boyer also honored Connecticut state Sen. Don DeFronzo with an AOPA Certificate of Appreciation for his efforts in passing a groundbreaking bill that will help support the state's privately owned airports. It gives the state the first right of refusal when private airports come up for sale. Connecticut has many privately owned airports and the owners themselves are growing older. The bill also provides a new funding stream. DeFronzo worked with many other legislators and state officials to make it all happen.
So what's the key to saving airports?
Two words: community support.
AOPA called on three people who know airports all to well. Bob Showalter is the owner of Showalter Orlando, an FBO at Florida's Orlando Executive Airport, and has spent most of his life around airplanes; Shelly Lesikar deZevallos is AOPA's Southwest regional representative whose family owns a public-use airport; and Woodie Woodward who was the FAA's associate administrator for airports until she retired.
They all said that it's important to get the community involved in the airport such as hosting events or inviting Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts out for tours. And the public education campaign needs to begin before the airport is threatened.
To get a unique perspective on the value of local airports, see the " A Day in the Life of America's Airports" where writers and photographers from AOPA ventured to a dozen airports, all on the same day, and came back with a multimedia experience.
October 5, 2007