Heightening the Role that GA Airports Play in Disaster Response É
January 15, 2010
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  • By John F. Infanger

    É is the target of a new study being directed by professor James Smith of the American Public University System. Dr. Smith, who is also president of the airport/disaster consulting firm Smith-Woolwine Associates ( , on Tuesday addressed a conference call hosted by the Airports Committee of the National Air Transportation Association.

    As many in industry know, general aviation airports often play central roles in disaster response. Getting supplies and response personnel to an affected region can frequently be accomplished more directly by accessing a GA facility, rather than by using a larger commercial airport which may be much further away from where the aid is needed.

    Mike France, director of regulatory affairs for NATA, says the association “is very pleased to be assisting Dr. Smith in his research into the role of general aviation airports during disasters. This type of research helps to quantify what those of us in the industry have known for a long time, that general aviation airports provide many benefits both economically and logistically to their surrounding communities.

    “It’s very important for members of communities surrounding GA airports to understand the value that their airport can play in a disaster situation”

    To accomplish his task, Dr. Smith plans to survey some 500 GA airports by March 1 while also conducting ten site visits to airports. Regarding the latter, he is looking for airport recommendations, using the following criteria É

    É an airport that has had a successful or unsuccessful experience with a disaster mission;

    É airports that want to get into the disaster response arena and are curious about what it will take; and

    É airports that have encountered barriers to developing a disaster response regimen.

    During a phone conversation following the NATA meeting, Dr. Smith asked for my thoughts on some airports that might be good for site visits, particularly in the West and Southwest. Thinking first from an infrastructure perspective, my recommendations were Alliance Airport north of Ft. Worth; Double Eagle Airport west of Albuquerque; and, Reid-Hillview Airport in San Jose.

    Now he’d like to hear from the folks who are actually operating GA airports or tenant operations. He can be reached at (540) 763-3068 (office); (540) 239-1206 (cell); or

    Thanks for reading. Jfi

    Date: 2010-01-14