Can’t see the forest for the trees

Last week I attended a webinar. The topic was Airport Compatible Land Use. Now, if you’ve never been to a webinar, you’re really missing something — at least in theory. Technology allows large numbers of us to get together and discuss a topic of common interest, without ever having to leave our homes or offices. In that respect at least, it’s a green method of doing business.

The webinar format also has a secondary feature that is worth noting. They can be as boring as boring can be. Imagine yourself in a closed room watching a powerpoint presentation that has all the excitement and drama of a dentist’s waiting room. Now imagine that same scene but with a monotone voice-over that drones on without interruption for half an hour or so.

Yeah, there are times when you really have to muscle up to get through a webinar. And that’s a shame because the format can spread important information far and wide in an efficient, effective manner. Unfortunately, the webinar I went to wasn’t one of those. It was the other kind. The kind where you fight sleep throughout a good 80% of the program. You find yourself focused primarily on wishing you hadn’t answered the invitation in the affirmative.

Boredom is one thing. If you’re going to get involved with government work, you’re going to suffer through some boring presentations. You have to know that right up front. But inaccurate or misleading information is another thing entirely. So when the host of this little electronic shindig suggested in the closing minutes of the program that residential development was incompatible with airports, I woke right up.

That’s not right. It’s not even close to right. And that’s a problem from my perspective.

Considering that this webinar dealt with airport compatible land use, and more specifically, airport compatible land use in Florida, the state that leads the nation in airport communities (there are 73 airparks in Florida at last count), I was appalled that the official stance was that private homes and airports don’t mix.

Reality, and common sense, would suggest otherwise.

I wrote to the presenter and pointed out that a considerable number of people don’t find living on, or near, the airport to be an incompatible conflict of uses at all. In fact they like it. Given their ‘druthers, they prefer it, in fact. There are who-knows-how-many aviation enthusiasts who would love to live on or next door to an airport, given the opportunity. And that desire is good, because when aviation enthusiasts live near the airport, airport noise complaints are reduced significantly, because the new aviation friendly neighbors aren’t annoyed by the sounds of aircraft. They often take the security of the airport to heart, too, which lends itself to something of an on-site neighborhood patrol that is always up and running.

Allowing and even encouraging housing in close proximity to the airport can even benefit those who hate airplane noise, want nothing to do with the airport, and wish it would go away (myopic as that view may be). If there are aviation enthusiasts living next to the airport, the airport haters have a built-in buffer between their homes and the offending field. In effect, they live slightly farther away. And that works for everyone.

The response I received suggested that the presenter was as dull and pedantic in his one-on-one communications as he has been in the webinar. My email to him had been courteous and professional, but it expressed my deep belief that residential housing could indeed exist in harmony with an airport. I even suggested that there was significant evidence to support that opinion right now, today, all over Florida and the United States.

The answer I received was something less than inspired. To paraphrase, the message read, “Oh, okay.”

As I said, when you get involved in government you have to know that being bored is going to be part of the game plan. But inaccuracy bugs me like I can’t even begin to tell you. Especially when the homework is as easy as taking a little electronic side trip to LivingWithYourPlane.com to find out how compatible airports and private homes really are.

Will the status quo change on this point? I honestly don’t know. But I can tell you that I’ll be right in there telling the story of satisfied residents who live close enough to the airport that every new engine start brings a smile. If I’m not mistaken, satisfied residents who feel they have the freedom to live the life they want to live is an indication of good government. At least it was in the civics classes I took.

If the discussion comes up in your town you might want to weigh in, too. Personally, I’d be interested in hearing how the discussion turns out.

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. He is also a founding partner and regular contributor to FlightMonkeys.com. You can reach him at Jamie@GeneralAviationNews.com.

 

Comments

  1. Chris says

    There’s a big difference between airpark communities and near-airport residential developments. Anyone who lives at an airpark, or buys a property with through-the-fence access knows what they are getting, as such a property is useless and undesirable to a non-pilot (and this cannot be hid during the sale process).

    I think airparks are a good thing. I can understand that the FAA doesn’t want public money spent on helping a small number of airpark residents, but I think there is a middle ground that should be reached somewhere for public airports with through-the-fence residents, perhaps prohibiting spending FAA dollars on improvements which wholly or mostly benefit airpark residents.

  2. Rod Beck says

    REALITY! Thank you Chris (earlier comment) for being direct in your response.

    That fact is, as you menioned, only about 1 in1,400 people have an “interest” in (need or want) for general avaition products and services; thats means, folks, for those who have poor math skills, 1,399 are “indifferent” at best.
    Perhaps we need to look at this GA from an unbias perspective, which most “pilots” rarely do.

    I’ve been giving a lecture at a local community college for the past several years, the title for my “show”, “General Aviation Economics:” The last group, was made up of a mix of students with an average age of lets say about 36 years. A question I normally ask is this;”how many of you have EVER been up (flying) in a light aircraft? This group, about 18 in total, was as I recall, 2! Next question! How many of you have even flown in an AIRLINER – guess what – EVERYONE!

    This publication, a very fine one indeed, I dought is read very often, if ever, by the owners of a G-5 or Falcon 600; members of “General Aviation”, a misnonoer!
    The term GA, to include “recreational aviation” is long outdated, another problem with the general populations comprehention of GA and just WHAT it is!

    Now, getting back to my question to the last class I addressed, only about 10% had ever been in a light aircraft; ALL having a NEED for being on an airline flight! In there lies the problem. Recreational pilots ARE a minority – period. Yet many beleive in spreading the “gospel” as if on a politcal campaign!

    I hear, and you know who you are, advocates preaching from some subjective idealistic notion that “flyting” is the greatest thing since “sliced bread”, ok, you win, the IPOD! Lets get SMART – not Don Adams, for those who remember him, but rather, beat the non-flying public at there WITHOUT then knowing it!

    Ok, you have a community airport muncipal/county owned and operated. The 1,399 citizens, which may mean nearly ALL in a small town, aren’t buying the NEED or JUSTIFICATION for the local GA (non-commercial) airport. Remember, ALL in my last class lecture audience had flow in a commercial airliner out of NEED.

    Now we’ll put on our “COMMON CENT$” caps (minus headset) with the idea of “quieting ” down those 1,399 sceptics. We all know that TAXES is a complaint of every citizen, and perhaps even our Netjets guru, Mr. Buffet is even one of them!

    Almost every GA airport has EXCESS land that will not require avaition related infrastruture; ramps, hangars, runways,etc. often several hundred acres. Now take off your A-2 jacket,and AOPA cap, if you have one, and shut up; remember your a MINORIY!

    Want to get there ATTENTION? Here goes. In a clandestine manner, get together with a few local INFLUENTIAL business executive/business owners – don’t even mention your beloved classic J-3 or out of annual 63 Skyhawk; this ISN”T what they, NON pilots want to hear. Suggest you have a “plan” and would lke to meet with them and the local Enterprise Develpment people to bring in industry or commerial businesses to the community, and incidently, the land next to “24” (don’t forget to say “runway 24″) other wise you may blow
    “I never had SEX with that women”, COVER; gotcha on that one!

    Seriously, guys and gals, now word gets out on the “street” that there’s an interest by several corporations who want to relocate or open up a branch location on that piece of land next to “24”. The town folks aren’t dumpies – they know that business means tax RELIEF; suddently the airport is a GOOD thing;”ah, so what if we have a few of these “weekend flyers” out there, look how much my property taxes have gone DOWN, and besides the company jet the Orange Computers flys only comes in a couple times a month. Why,hell, my son Bart, was having lunch at the “Mayday Cafe” and met one of the pilots. He showed him inside that jet – even got a pictue of him and the Captain on his I-Phone”!

    Moral of the story; now 1,399 folks are BENEFITING! The odds have changed!

  3. says

    Over the past couple of years the FAA has gone to war with airpark communities attached to airports that have received any level of federal funding. Following significant backlash, it appeared that the FAA was mellowing a bit on the subject and taking less of a one-size-fits-all approach. Wrong. I manage a small GA airport in Kansas and last week I received a form requiring me to confess any Residential Through The Fence agreements (which we don’t have) and then basically acknowledge that new RTTF agreements will not be authorized. The big stick in their hand is in the form of Grant Assurances attached to any past or future FAA funding (which is a substantial stick).

    I am very frustrated with this extremely short sighted, broadly brushed, interpretation of FAA rule making. The points you make are valid and they are choosing to make even the smallest GA fields fall under the same rules as large airline-serviced airports. Their argument is that the government shouldn’t be funding airports that are used for personal access and enjoyment by homeowners in adjacent airpark developments. With this logic, my driveway shouldn’t be attached to a public street.

    The Grant Assurances also require that we, as an airport owner, charge a reasonable access fee for any Through The Fence access. This is a completely fair requirement as any operator should be paying their way to use the airport. If they aren’t paying hangar or tie-down rents like other airport users, it only makes sense. In other words, each homeowner with an aircraft would pay fees for access to the runway.

    Interestingly, another item in the Grant Assurances is a requirement that the airport work toward financial self-sustainability. However, here the FAA is taking away a great opportunity for an airport to increase revenues and meet this logical financial goal.

    Lastly, a continuous challenge in smaller communities is hangar development. Most every airport in our region has a waiting list for hangar slots but the market isn’t such that we can charge rents that make new hangar construction feasible (financially). Residential airpark communities help relieve some of this need as well.

    In the end, this is a win-win situation cut off at the knees by overzealous federal regulation.

  4. says

    Over the past couple of years the FAA has gone to war with airpark communities attached to airports that have received any level of federal funding. Following significant backlash, it appeared that the FAA was mellowing a bit on the subject and taking less of a one-size-fits-all approach. Wrong. I manage a small GA airport in Kansas and last week I received a form requiring me to confess any Residential Through The Fence agreements (which we don’t have) and then basically acknowledge that new RTTF agreements will not be authorized. The big stick in their hand is in the form of Grant Assurances attached to any past or future FAA funding (which is a substantial stick).

    I am very frustrated with this extremely short sighted, broadly brushed, interpretation of FAA rule making. The points you make are valid and they are choosing to make even the smallest GA fields fall under the same rules as large airline-serviced airports. Their argument is that the government shouldn’t be funding airports that are used for personal access and enjoyment by homeowners in adjacent airpark developments. With this logic, my driveway shouldn’t be attached to a public street.

    The Grant Assurances also require that we, as an airport owner, charge a reasonable access fee for any Through The Fence access. This is a completely fair requirement as any operator should be paying their way to use the airport. If they aren’t paying hangar or tie-down rents like other airport users, it only makes sense. In other words, each homeowner with an aircraft would pay fees for access to the runway.

    Interestingly, another item in the Grant Assurances is a requirement that the airport work toward financial self-sustainability. However, here the FAA is taking away a great opportunity for an airport to increase revenues and meet this logical financial goal.

    Lastly, a continuous challenge in smaller communities is hangar development. Most every airport in our region has a waiting list for hangar slots but the market isn’t such that we can charge rents that make new hangar construction feasible (financially). Residential airpark communities help relieve some of this need as well.

    In the end, this is a win-win situation cut off at the knees by overzealous federal regulation.

  5. Chris says

    “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” -Anais Nin

    While you make good points, you make good points as a pilot, which only apply to pilots. According to a statistic I read a while ago, less than 1/3 of 1% of all Americans have any sort of aviation certificate (including a medical/student certificate).

    As a pilot, I wish I did live closer to the airport and when I see a low-flying plane go by I always look up and try to figure out what it is and where it’s going. I’d view being near the airport as a plus.

    But I’m in the minority, less than 1/3 of 1% to be exact. It’s sadly a very small minority.

    The vast majority of people (and thus the vast majority of people who buy houses) don’t fly, and what little they know about general aviation they learn from being annoyed by noise and reading the news (which tells them that small planes are dangerous machines which sometimes fall out of the sky and/or explode, killing people in the process). They don’t see general aviation as helping the economy, or providing jobs, or a fun hobby- they see noisy metal insects that might crash into their house and explode. (Overstated perhaps, but not by much).

    Now when developers develop land near an airport, they want to sell the developed property for as much as possible. So airport noise is glossed over, showing times are arranged during periods of low airport activity or traffic patterns don’t overfly the house in question, and the buyer DOESN’T GET TO MAKE AN INFORMED DECISION.

    Then the buyer moves in and realizes their property is affected by airplane noise, and they grow to resent the airport as a result. It’s out of this that you get the many groups of citizens who fight airports tooth and nail and try to get them shut down. If the buyer then sells the house, he’s obviously not going to mention the airport because he too wants top dollar. The cycle repeats.

    The point of all this- It’s great to live near the airport if you’re a pilot. But few non-pilots want to live anywhere near an airport. And there is no good way of ensuring only non-pilots move into airport-vicinity housing. So inviting residential housing into airport vicinity areas is (in my opinion) just setting the airport up for neighbor complaints.

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *