I was deeply disturbed this morning to read Thomas Frank's article titled "Feds Keep Little Used Airports In Business." Mr. Frank's biased and poorly researched story clearly misses the extraordinary value that America's general aviation airports provide to small communities across this great nation and contains misleading facts that do not demonstrate the entire picture of the importance of general aviation airports to those communities.
The following facts are quite clear on just how invaluable GA is to this country:
The general aviation industry contributes $150 billion annually to the U.S. economy
The general aviation industry accounts for 1.2 million jobs General aviation aircraft fly 27 million flight hours each year with 67 percent of those flights being used for business purposes. One of the most misleading facts used in the article is the distribution of Airport Improvement Program (AIP) dollars and how, according to the article, $15 billion is disbursed to some 2,834 general aviation airports. It is important to note that some 550 commercial airports receive the lion's share of AIP funding as demonstrated in the chart below:
Percent of Distributed Airport Improvement Program Funds by Category For Fiscal Years (FY) 2006 and 2007
Commercial Service Airports
Reliever and GA Airports
State Programs and System Planning
And in FY 2008, only $780 million of $3.5 billion allocated to the Airport Improvement Program was disbursed to general aviation airport as seen by clicking here.
The article clearly indicates that competition is not of value to the USA Today organization. The article certainly seems to align USA Today with the airline industry's advocacy and public relation efforts to continue a monopolistic, mid-20th century hub-and-spoke air transportation system that showcases poor customer service, delayed flights and a business model for failure.
It is important to note that USA Today's parent company, Gannett Company Inc., utilizes at least three general aviation aircraft according the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) aircraft registry. Clearly, the executives at Gannett recognize the value of general aviation as they would not operate these aircraft otherwise. I would be willing to bet that these aircraft use general aviation airports near major metropolitan areas to maximize their time, bypassing busier commercial airports with frequent delays.
I would hope that in the future USA Today would provide more objective, factually driven reporting instead of reading the latest talking points from the airline community.
James K. Coyne, President
National Air Transportation Association