The aviation community commends Gov. Pat Quinn’s recent declaration recognizing the importance of general aviation and the vital role it plays in Illinois and its economy. Here in Wheeling and Prospect Heights at Chicago Executive Airport, we believe the recognition is overdue.
Since the dawn of flight, Illinois has always had a special connection with aviation and the aviation industry. In the early 1900s, audiences would travel to see spectacular shows by the Illinois Aviation Club at Cicero Field, where many of America’s first aviators learned to fly. Now, aviators receive a more formalized education from universities and aviation academies around the state, such as the flight schools at Chicago Executive Airport.
Chicago is well known as the site of one of the busiest airports in the world. In 2010, Chicago O’Hare International Airport experienced the largest growth in traffic among the 10 busiest airports in the United States. However, while O’Hare does an amazing job there are numerous other airports in the region, including Chicago Executive Airport, that play a significant role supporting the regional transportation needs in the Chicago area.
O’Hare is a hub for major airlines and does an incredible job of fulfilling that role. General aviation airports, however, fulfill another role. Here at Chicago Executive Airport, we pride ourselves on providing travelers with additional opportunities to access Main Street America, as well as the rest of Illinois.
General aviation airports in Illinois are an essential part of America’s transportation system as exemplified by their impact on the state’s economy. General aviation contributes $6 billion each year to the state’s economy. That translates to $492 per capita – the seventh highest total in the country.
Furthermore, Illinois is home to 27,000 pilots, and 10,578 registered general aviation aircraft and general aviation accounts. There are 3,100 full time and 1,000 part-time jobs directly attributable to general aviation in the state.
Regional airports throughout the state also support local businesses, such as flight schools, medical care, farms and law enforcement, helping these businesses and groups connect to urban centers within and beyond the state. Indirectly, they cast a much larger footprint on the job market.
The role general aviation plays in some lives cannot be overstated. For instance, since 1981, Lifeline Pilots based in Peoria and utilizing airports, such as CEA, have provided free transportation to individuals who otherwise may not have access to specialized medical treatment in other parts of the state or country.
Lifeline Pilots conducts more than 500 missions annually and has more than 550 active volunteer general aviation pilots who take patients to treatment facilities, reunite family members with their loved ones, and help in disaster relief operations when needed. That involvement translates to more 1.7-million passenger miles logged by Lifeline Pilots transporting individuals to medical facilities across Illinois and neighboring states.
Maintaining a strong, secure and robust air transportation system is an important part of efforts to stimulate and protect the local and national economy. With his proclamation, the Governor has taken an important step in the right direction.
Dennis G. Rouleau, C.M.
Chicago Executive Airport
Source: CHICAGO TRIBUNE LOCAL