As regular readers of this column may have noted, I often write about airports and administrative issues that effect the municipally owned airports of Polk County, Florida. Because most of the issues that one airport faces will eventually become an issue for others, there is a certain universality to the topics covered here, even if the focus does appear on the surface to be narrow, including only the four municipally owned airports in this county.
That’s the magician’s trick of it all. There aren’t four airports in my county. The four airports I’ve mentioned here, in relation to the Polk Aviation Alliance for instance, are just the tip of the iceberg. They are the big dogs in a kennel filled with dozens of yapping pooches. You see, although there may be only four municipally owned airports in my county, it is entirely reasonable to say that there are as many as 40 aviation bases of operation.
What? Yes, it’s true. There are 10 times as many aviation facilities in my county than most people are aware of — and I’m including the locals when I say that. What’s more, the circumstance that allows for that 10-fold increase leads us back to the universality issue mentioned two paragraphs back
Most counties and most states reflect the same state of affairs. The municipal airports are important, and often handle the larger aircraft that are used in the system, but they are by no means the only game in town. A quick search of Globalair.com shows that if you count airports, heliports, and seaplane bases, there are seven aviation facilities just here in the small city I live in. In the state of Florida the full listing includes 857 public or private airports, as well as other aviation facilities such as heliports.
America is awash in aviation bases. Sadly, most of them are nearly forgotten, under-utilized, and unsupported by the public as a whole. But they’re out there and we need to know about it — and do something about it. If we, the core customer base, aren’t aware and informed of these facilities, what chance do the owners and operators of them have of informing the public at large?
Let me suggest that perhaps, just perhaps, the aviation community could do itself a lot of good by not insisting on dividing ourselves up into separate cliques, like a bunch of teenage girls. Traditionally we self-segregate our ranks into unique groups who tend to stick together, and repel interlopers. That’s counter-productive to our cause. When we separate the warbird guys from the sport pilots, the helicopter operators from the seaplane aficionados, the homebuilders from the jet jocks, we create a weakened, fractionalized community that has very little common ground to base our activism on.
Allow me to suggest that we could all help the common cause by searching out the little known and often under-utilized aviation facilities in our own towns — and visit them. Admittedly, not all private facilities are open to the public, but most of them are. And it is rare that an aviation enthusiast meets another aviation enthusiast without feeling good about the introduction.
Imagine how much more benefit aviation could offer our communities if we, the core consumers, were better versed in what’s available locally. And just consider how much more vibrant our aviation community might be if the connections between the best used, and least used facilities in town were strengthened — even if only to the extent that the operators had met, exchanged contact information, and parted with a simple, “Hey, let’s grab a cup of coffee sometime.”
I think I see an opportunity awaiting us. Are you up for a cup?
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.
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