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Spotlight on Aurora Airport...and its friendsSpotlight on Aurora Airport

Oregon’s Aurora State Airport is on the road to expansion thanks to pilots, stakeholders, and a long-term campaign highlighting the significance and positive benefits the airport brings to its community.

Aurora State Airport in Aurora, Oregon. Google Earth image.

On August 5, the Marion County Board of Commissioners unanimously green-lighted a plan to rezone 16.5 acres of adjacent property for airport development. The plan includes construction of hangars, offices, shops, and other airport facilities. A previously planned runway extension is also in the works.

While the land-use decision is a victory for Aurora State Airport and its surrounding communities, the win has not been an easy one. In recent years, there has been substantial opposition to airport expansion from a small, vocal minority trying to stop development south of the Portland metropolitan area. Some residents were also concerned that a runway extension will attract bigger jets to the field, leading to noise concerns.

The loud opposition to airport development led to the creation of The Friends of Aurora Airport and its plan to turn things around through a largely grassroots social media campaign, highlighting the many positive contributions made by the airport. Together, tenants, local pilots, and business owners have taken a proactive approach in telling their stories, promoting their airport, and highlighting the dozens of businesses that serve the community.

Aurora’s history dates back to World War II, where it was primarily used as an auxiliary base to support the war effort. Today, it is home to Van’s Aircraft and is the third-busiest airport in Oregon, providing nearly 1,300 jobs to the state and local economy. It’s also one of 84 general aviation airports in the nation with a national significance designation from the FAA, meaning it plays a critical role in national transportation and emergency preparedness. Aerial fire suppression, emergency medical transportation, power line restoration, and emergency recovery are some of the missions the airport supports.

Had the zone change not been approved, some of the growing businesses currently operating at the airport might have been forced to relocate. This new land will ease that pressure by allowing additional property to be developed at the airport.

“The land use decision enables our airport to do more life-saving, mission-critical work for the local communities we serve,” said Friends of Aurora Airport spokesman Dylan Frederick.

“Thanks to stakeholders like the Positive Aurora Airport Management Group and its leaders, Tony Helbling and Bruce Bennett, and Ted Millar who spearheaded the Friends of Aurora Airport, Aurora and its surrounding communities can continue to reap the benefits of this airport. AOPA applauds them for their vision and efforts which led to this positive outcome and sustainable future,” said AOPA Northwest Regional Manager Josh Pruzek.

AOPA has long championed establishing support groups to advocate on behalf of the success and growth of their airports. As with the case of Aurora, it doesn’t take a lot of money or resources and can be done purely through grassroots organization. AOPA offers online resources through our Airport Support Network volunteer program to help.

Amelia Walsh

Communications Coordinator
AOPA Communications Coordinator Amelia Walsh joined AOPA in 2017. Named after the famous aviatrix, she comes from a family of pilots and is currently working on her pilot certificate.
Topics: Advocacy, Airport Advocacy

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