The issue of airport funding is always entertaining. Not because it’s of no great importance to the aviation community, but for exactly the opposite reason. It isn’t important to those who dole out the dollars. And that’s almost entertaining enough to make a responsible citizen cry. Ironic, isn’t it?
ABC News produced a report for television that sheds light on this exact oddity of discretionary spending. It focuses on the Johnstown Cambria County Airport in western Pennsylvania. The video is approximately two and a half minutes long, certainly not long enough to tell all sides of what is clearly a very complex story of a community that would otherwise be almost completely cut off from the rest of the world, and an airport that needs massive subsidies to be a viable entity in aviation.
As you watch this video, I wonder if you, like me, took note of the fact that this airport is located only three miles from a town with a population of approximately 25,000 people, yet it is funded as it if is located in the heart of a bustling megalopolis. Pittsburgh is a mind-numbing 70 miles away. Clearly the commute would be impractical for any reasonable traveler – or would it?
My local airport serves a community with a somewhat larger population, and although our funding levels are a fraction of what Johnstown absorbs, most users in my area think the airport is wasting money on unnecessary frivolities. Our uncontrolled airport is a fine example of what GA can offer, while the hour-long commute to Orlando or Tampa to access airline service strikes me as reasonable and convenient. But then, I don’t have a bottomless pit of taxpayer funds to spend.
So watch and fume. This may be an excellent indicator of the theory that when the government talks about belt-tightening, the subtext is that you should tighten your belt, while they reach around to get a better grip on your wallet.
Jamie Beckett is a CFI and A&P mechanic who stepped into the political arena in an effort to promote and protect GA at his local airport. You can reach him at Jamie@GeneralAviationNews.com.