NJ Conference focuses on aviation’s economic impact


The 17th Annual New Jersey State Aviation Conference, held May 4, focused on the economic impact of aviation, as well as how to navigate the regulatory maze if you violate a TFR.

New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner James Simpson delivered a keynote address on aviation economics and the role general aviation plays in the state’s development efforts. “Aviation funding is the smallest funding that we do in the state, but vitally important,” he said, noting that only $5 million to $7 million is spent on aviation out of the NJDOT’s $5 billion annual capital budget.

James Simpson

With such limited resources, Simpson said the state has to target its grants to airports that are “viable economic engines for a region” rather than airports that want to improve or build facilities in the hopes of attracting new business. As an example, Princeton Airport, with its base of GA aircraft, helicopter and jet traffic, just received a grant to replace its aging Jet-A and 100LL fuel farm.

Simpson, who is a jet-rated pilot, explained how DOT is working with the Department of Environmental Protection to ensure continued growth in a responsible manner. “Airports can coexist [with the environment] if they’re done properly,” he said. “They are open space.” An example is a grant for a 500-foot runway expansion at Woodbine Airport that was accomplished with the help of the DEP.

One of the priorities for Gov. Chris Christie and the cabinet is to keep companies and jobs in the state, and with it the disposable income needed to keep a costly industry alive in this tough economy. “The cabinet and the governor are actually going out as sales people to attract and retain people in the state,” he said. The effort is paying off as aviation companies, like Honeywell, are expanding their facilities in the state, and non-aviation companies, such as global real estate company Realogy, have chosen to stay in New Jersey rather than relocate.

Selena Shilad

Selena Shilad, executive director of the Aviation Alliance Across America, reinforced Simpson’s emphasis on the economic impact of general aviation. In New Jersey, general aviation supports 18,000 aviation-related jobs and contributes $1.7 billion to the state’s economy, she reported.

Nationally, civil aviation contributes $1.3 trillion to the U.S. economy, generating more than 10 million jobs, added Diane Crean, deputy regional administrator for the FAA’s Eastern Region. Crean also presented an overview of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) and the advantages it promises to provide, such as improving safety, reducing aviation’s environmental impacts, and increasing capacity.

Huntley Lawrence, general manager of New Jersey airports for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, discusses Newark Airport from a balcony on the original terminal building overlooking the ramp on the north end of the field with well-known aviation journalist Jack Elliott.

The conference, hosted by the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Coalition, also featured several panels with practical information on dealing with the regulatory environment.

The first covered TFRs and what to expect if you violate restricted airspace — an issue of importance in the busy New York corridor with frequent visits by dignitaries, like UN officials. An FAA official explained that while TFRs are normally announced well in advance of taking effect, they can be created over car accidents or fires with little to no prior notice.

He emphasized the importance of getting information before flying from a flight briefer, local news, or even calling your local control tower. He also noted that just because a pilot may have violated a TFR, that doesn’t mean there will an enforcement action.

Jack McNamara, president of the New Jersey Aviation Association and an aviation lawyer, explained the dos and don’ts if you are asked to call the tower after a flight. His best advice: Call a lawyer before you call the tower.

Another panel focused on upgrading aircraft or avionics, explaining the benefits of electronic flight bags and glass panel displays. The key takeaway from the panel: Get the proper training.

“A lot of people buy more plane than they can handle,” CFI Stephen Lind said, referring to avionics as well as the aircraft.

Frank Turtola, with Global Aerospace Insurance, reiterated that point, saying it’s important to stay proficient in stick and rudder skills, even with the latest technology in the cockpit. He also recommended talking with your insurance agent to revalue your aircraft if you are upgrading your panel.

Next year’s conference is slated for May 3.

For more information: NJAviation.com


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  1. Rod Beck says

    A “proposed” 500 ft runway extension – HELLO! This airport (KOBI) of sorts is located in the LOWEST ranked county (Cape May) of the 21 counties in New Jersey – LOSING .05 % of its population between 2000 and 2003.

    There are several GA airports within a 20 mile radius or so including Millville ((KMIV) and Altantic City (KACY), the later having ILS’s and full service FBO’s.

    Wouldn’t it make more cent$ to use the funds for improvements to airports with higher traffic counts and with greater ultilization?

    I seriously doubt if another strip of asphalt is going to change the demographic anytime soon – with the exception of a few more Ultralights and a flock of non-tenant paying seagulls!

    Having been a resident of the “Garden State” for 40+ years of my adult life, I’ve seen the demise of over 35 GA airports give way to the “developers bulldozer” – simply a case for more efffficient uses for very valuable real estate – unfortunately!

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