AOPA is working with local pilots to ensure Arkansas airports continue to thrive and encourage economic development throughout the state.
On a visit to Arkansas airports this week, AOPA Director of Advocacy Joey Colleran addressed pilots about AOPA’s efforts to promote general aviation and support airports around the country.
“General aviation in Arkansas supports jobs and drives local economies,” Colleran said of her visit to the state. “AOPA is committed to working with pilots, officials, and state aviation groups to protect that valuable asset.”
Community support for an airport can result in economic benefits and increased development in the area. At Saline County Regional Airport, where Colleran hosted a meeting and breakfast for local pilots, officials are adding safety improvements and planning to expand services. The airstrip opened in March 2007 to replace Watts Field in Benton and has more than 700 acres designated for development. State and county officials are considering plans to attract companies to the site.
State Sen. Shane Broadway attended the pilots’ breakfast and spoke in support of GA. Broadway told the pilots “the aviation industry is one of Arkansas’ leading exports and provides many opportunities within the state.”
State Aviation Director John Knight also attended the breakfast, and emphasized the importance of protecting community airports and his appreciation of the work done by AOPA, saying “all of us need a place to land, and working with AOPA is a great way to ensure that.” Knight also discussed the state’s commitment to aviation, saying that 97 percent of the money collected by the state from aviation taxes goes right back to aviation.
Colleran also made a visit to Russellville Regional Airport, which was recognized by the FAA as Arkansas’ “Airport of the Year” for 2009. Colleran met with Airport Support Network volunteer Bobby Day and toured the airport, which has made numerous infrastructure improvements in recent years. Since 2004, the airport has relocated the parallel taxiway to separate it farther from the runway and constructed a new terminal building—projects funded by federal, state, and city dollars as well as donations from local businesses and individuals. Day said community support has been critical to the airport’s success.
At Memorial Field in Hot Springs, Colleran met with Airport Support Network volunteer Bobby Hall about recent activities at that airport. She also visited Dexter B. Florence Memorial Field in Arkadelphia, where the airport is managed for the city by Henderson State University. The university has Arkansas’ only four-year, university-level program in aviation.