LaHood blog: DuPage County Airport a model for regional airport excellence

Regional airports operate more than 13,000 flights a day, which amounts to more than half of all commercial flights nationwide. These airports are also home to the regional airlines that allow Americans to fly where national carriers cannot afford to serve. They connect millions of us to family and friends; they connect local businesses to national markets. They also provide a base for many corporate aircraft fleets and serve as vital reliever hubs for our metropolitan airports.

Yesterday, I visited the DuPage County Airport, one of America's busiest general aviation airports and a terrific example of the benefits regional airports provide their communities.

In recent years, the DuPage Airport Authority has transformed the airport into a model for the nation. They have eliminated the airport's debt and made it profitable enough to run without a public operating subsidy. All public revenue is now used to upgrade the airport's facilities and generate more business. Today, DuPage County taxpayers enjoy improved services, greater economic development and a lower property tax bill.

In fact, a recent study predicted that structural improvements at the DuPage County Airport could lead to: Nearly 3,000 new jobs, $106 million in new wages and salaries, $373 million in new local spending, and $3.8 million in new tax revenue

That's a promising future. And we at DOT look forward to working together--with the DuPage County Airport and regional airports across the country--to maintain and improve our aviation system to continue meeting the needs of America's air travelers.

One way the Federal Aviation Administration meets the needs of those travelers is through its Flight Standards Service, which promotes safety through certification, regulation, and oversight of commercial and general aviation across the country.

When I visited the DuPage County Airport, I also met with the professionals at the FAA's DuPage Flight Standards District Office. This office provides oversight for general aviation in the greater Chicago region, from gliders to replica Wright Brothers planes to rockets that get shot into low earth orbit. They joked that, "if it gets more than 2 feet off the ground, it's our responsibility."

We talked about how Americans know the FAA is responsible for commercial flights, but there are also thousands of general aviation flights each day under FAA oversight. Many of those depart from regional airports like DuPage County.

Whether we're talking about general aviation, regional commercial carriers, or corporate aircraft, it's clear that America's regional airports are pulling their weight and more, and we salute them.