Get extra lift from AOPA. Start your free membership trial today! Click here

A show of strength

The determination of local pilots kept a Wisconsin airport from closing its doors—although they were given less than a week’s notice to mobilize support before a crucial council vote.

Photo courtesy of David Tesch.

On August 24, the Common Council in Portage, Wisconsin, voted on a resolution that would have considered closing Portage Municipal Airport and pursuing options to redevelop the property.

Seventy pilots, residents, and public officials commented during the council meeting, providing thought-provoking, emotional, and solution-forward testimonies, which ultimately resulted in the council voting 5-4 in favor of tabling the resolution until January 2024.

Although this may seem like the council delaying a vote to close the airport, sentiments given by council members reveal that the plan may be shifting toward supporting the airport in more meaningful ways, rather than closure. The council expressed intentions to use the months preceding the January meeting to review airport operations, funding, and investment. AOPA has offered to be a resource during that investigation and planning process.

News of the pending closure consideration broke on August 18, and in just a few days, AOPA Airport Support Network Volunteer David Tesch had rallied dozens of supporters.

“It was fantastic to see all the passionate support for (C47) Portage airport at this meeting, from people of all walks of life. Pilot and non-pilots, young and old. We look forward to the newfound spirit of cooperation between the common council, airport commission, and the aviation community of Portage,” said Tesch. “It is our job to continue to educate and promote aviation to all. We especially want to show a path for the future to our younger people through aviation, either professional or recreational.”

AOPA also lent a hand by issuing a call to action in Wisconsin and northern Illinois, asking our members to call and email the Portage Common Council and the mayor of Portage to vote against the closure of the airport.

Leading up to the vote, pilots, students, and advocates gathered at the airport to make their voices heard—a show of support that culminated in a standing-room-only crowd at the August 24 council vote.

“The strength of AOPA is within our membership and based on some of the emails I received—nearly 200 came across my screen—that also went to the mayor and council, our membership is passionate, excited, and absolute in the message of protecting airports,” said AOPA Great Lakes Regional Manager Kyle Lewis.

The victory at Portage Municipal Airport has pilots and airport advocates in high spirits, and AOPA will continue to monitor operations at the field as calls for closure, relocation, and development remain.

Lillian Geil
Communications Specialist
Communications Specialist Lillian Geil is a student pilot and a graduate of Columbia University who joined AOPA in 2021.
Topics: Advocacy, Airport Advocacy

Related Articles