For decades, communities across our state have relied upon local airports and small aircraft as a vital resource. Our state’s ties with aviation can be traced back to the early part of the 20th century when Varney Airlines, which later became part of United Airlines, started delivering mail to citizens throughout the state on the Pascoe-Boise-Elko route. The airmail service soon led to commercial passenger service, further expanding our state’s reliance on aviation. Today, more and more our communities rely upon local airports and all types of aviation to stay connected to other parts of the country and the nation as a whole.
It is easy to overlook the tremendous impact that general aviation, or non-commercial aviation, holds as an integral part of this aviation network. General aviation is a significant source of economic activity for our state, contributing over $429 million to our state’s economy. Not only that, the state’s more than a hundred general aviation airports directly support more than 4,000 jobs with a payroll of $133 million, and these aircraft serve as a critical tool for local businesses to support jobs, serve customers, and get to far-off plants and offices.
Sandpoint Airport alone, for example, generates close to $33 million in annual economic impact. This airport is a vital part of Bonner County, serving local residents and businesses and helping them to connect not only to the rest of Idaho but to neighboring states as well.
In addition, on a daily basis, general aviation supports critical services such as law enforcement, search and rescue, medical charitable groups, wild land fire fighting, agricultural support and environmental services. These groups rely upon local airports and aircraft to carry out these crucially needed services.
Organizations such as Angel Flight West rely upon the generosity of volunteers, who provide their services and aircraft to transport patients and their families in need of medical treatment to facilities they otherwise would not be able to reach due to financial or health reasons. Over the last year and a half, Angel Flight West has conducted 50 missions here in Idaho, utilizing our local general aviation airports to get patients to the specialized facilities.
With general aviation playing such a substantial role in our communities, it is fitting that Governor Otter recently recognized this important industry, declaring September “General Aviation Appreciation Month.” We thank the governor for recognizing the vital role of this industry here in Idaho and hope that this is the first step in helping to build and support this important sector of our economy.
Sandpoint Airport Manager
Source: Bonner County Daily Bee