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A Day in the Life of One Local Airport

AIP project enriches community


September 28, 2009 — Recent articles published by USA Today have been highly criticalof the federal government for its funding of local airports that don’t offer commercial air-carrier operations, alleging that it robs funding that would be better spent for larger commercial facilities. (See EAA’s reaction.) The following example – Padgham Field (35D), the local airport in Allegan, Michigan – will help illustrate the importance of our local community airports.

A year ago, the Allegan airport underwent a significant construction project to expand runway 11/29 to 4,300 feet. This was done to allow larger aircraft to use the airport and provide direct access to the community by more people. The expansion project used a combination of funding sources: the local community paid for 2.5 percent of the cost; the State of Michigan, 2.5 percent; and the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program (AIP), 95 percent.

Last Friday, September 25, the airport experienced typical traffic: flight training operations (seven students training for a variety of ratings and certificates ranging from the private pilot to flight instructor); a couple of transient pilots who flew in their personal aircraft to have lunch in the community; and a St. Louis businessman with a member of his staff flying a Piper Cheyenne. The “Show-Me” state residents wanted to see for themselves the results of the airport expansion.

The businessman was pleasantly surprised.  He’d been limiting his visits and business within the community because his aircraft required more runway than the airport previously offered. With the upgrade, he’ll likely do business here more frequently.

Around mid-day, a King Air turbo-prop twin serving as a medical transfer aircraft arrived, carrying a patient returning home after receiving treatment at an advanced medical facility located a significant distance away. That aircraft could not have landed here prior to the runway expansion. The airplane was met on the ramp by an ambulance from the local hospital, to which the patient was taken after being transferred from the airplane. The pilots, who also stayed for lunch, could have landed at another airport, but that would have required a much longer ambulance ride for the patient.

While this tapestry of aircraft operations occurred throughout the day, nine different airport business employees worked to serve these aircraft. Airport employees work in the community every day, but they wouldn’t have these jobs without the airport—and, frankly, the airport expansion.

This combination of activities on this one particular day is representative of what normally occurs at Allegan Airport. It directly and positively affects the local community, whether it’s for business, for life-saving or enriching medical purposes, educational advancement, or yes, recreational purposes. Some of this activity would not have been possible without the expansion project that was completed in 2008.

A local airport contributes to the local economy in many ways - some that are more apparent than others. An airport serves as a crucial segment of a community’s overall infrastructure – one that makes it a richer, more enjoyable place to live for those who call it, “Home.”

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