By Don Devries, Hot Springs Mayor
There was a time when the healing waters of the hot springs and the medical facilities brought many people here from all over the United States. At that time, the Hot Springs Airport saw two major airlines – Western and Frontier – provide passenger and freight service to our community.
Those days are gone and some people wonder what purpose our airport serves. Our airport is part of the national transportation system. What does that mean?
Simply put, the airport was bought and built with government funds to be used for general aviation, and if needed, was to be used in a time of a national or local crisis. A recent local crisis was the Alabaugh Fire. During the Alabaugh Fire the airport supported five helicopters, three single-engine air tankers, and two support aircraft. On one day alone there were more than 129 arrivals and departures. Without the air tankers based at the airport, we probably would have had even greater property loss. Because of its geographical location, during fire season our airport is now a permanent tanker fire base.
Our airport has another important role, to provide a service for the area. We have people fly here for hunting, golfing, and to visit the Hot Springs area many attractions, staying in our motels and eating at our restaurants. It serves local businesses needs, and serves medical needs with Life Flights transporting patients, especially for our local VA center. The paved runway is 4,500 feet in length, which is longer than many airports in smaller communities throughout the state.
The airport is not only about the aircraft that are based here, but about providing a service to those who come from other parts of the country for pleasure and for business. Fall River County will soon be providing a vehicle at the airport available for pilots and passengers to use when they arrive.
Thank you to the county commissioners for their contribution to flying public, and the area businesses it will benefit. Next time you are driving past the airport, drive in and look around. It is not there for every person, but is available for the locals and the visitors who use small planes for travel.
Source: HOT SPRINGS STAR