General aviation airports are an endangered species, so to speak. With limited land to build new airports and pressure from developers to take over the green space that airports create, pilots must become actively involved in protecting these facilities.
AOPA Vice President of Airport Advocacy Bill Dunn spoke to pilots, airport managers, and aviation consultants at the fourth annual Delaware Aviation Summit last week, giving them examples of how to protect their local airports. The examples he provided can be useful tools to airport supporters nationwide.
One of the best ways to protect an airport is to get involved in the happenings at the airport.
“Be active at your local airport,” Dunn encourages pilots. “Join your airport’s support group, or form one if none exists. Become an AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer if there isn’t already one at your airport.”
Active pilot groups and ASN volunteers have helped save many airports over the years.
In 2003, two Albert Whitted airport support groups in St. Petersburg, Fla., and ASN volunteer Jack Tunstill campaigned for the airport in advance of a vote to protect or close part of the airport. The print ads and educational mailers, among numerous other efforts, paid off. St. Petersburg residents voted to save Albert Whitted instead of allowing one of its runways to be closed and the land sold to developers for high-rise condos.
GA supporters in Maine stood up for Biddeford Airport in 2008, voting to keep the airport open. The city had wanted to spend $3 million to close it based on noise complaints and false claims that it “didn’t pay its own way” in the community.
But the airport support groups and ASN volunteers weren’t alone in their fight to protect their airports. AOPA was engaged in the issue with them every step of the way.
“Airport supporters played a key role in both of these cases,” Dunn says, “but AOPA served as a tremendous resource and support for their efforts. We are here to help pilots and airport supporters every step of the way in promoting and protecting their airports. They just need to get involved, take a stand, and turn to us for help.”