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Elevating General Aviation to New Heights in Virginia
October 17, 2011
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  • October 6, 2011
    By Hank Rempe

    Since the early days of flight, when the Wright Brothers built and flew the world’s first Military Airplane at Fort Myer, Virginia in 1908, aviation and our local airports have been an important part of the fabric of our communities. Throughout the commonwealth our network of airports supports businesses, allows for the transport of goods, and provides critical services to our communities, enhancing safety, health and the overall welfare of towns across the state. Therefore, it is fitting that Governor Bob McDonnell recently declared “General Aviation Appreciation Month”.

    Across the Commonwealth, our 66 public use airports are a resource for our communities as well as locally based businesses generating much needed jobs. Virginia is home to over 14,000 registered pilots and over 6,000 general aviation aircraft, serving as a lifeline for our local communities. It is often said that, “If you put one mile of asphalt on a road, you can travel one mile, but if you put one mile of asphalt on an airport, you can travel anywhere in the world”. While most individuals usually think about commercial air service, general aviation airports around the state support local businesses, allowing them to reach far-off plants, customers and goods, as well as serve as a lifeline for law enforcement, emergency medical transports, agriculture, health care, tourism and other important services. For example, Hanover County Airport alone estimates over 43,000 general aviation operations over a 12 month period ending in February 2010 delivering over 38,000 visitors and creating 29.4 million in economic impact. Statewide, general aviation airports alone generate $728 million annually in economic activity, plus over 5,000 well-paying jobs with a payroll of $213 million.

    In addition, organizations such as Mercy Medical Airlift and Angel Flight Mid-Atlantic, based in Virginia Beach, help patients with financial constraints to get much-needed medical care. The organization relies on volunteer pilots with general aviation aircraft to fly patients to distant medical facilities when they need it. Between July, 2009 and June, 2010, Mercy Medical Airlift provided transportation to 22,204 patients across the country. During the 2010 calendar year, the service provided by Mercy Medical Airlift generated a public benefit of $4.2 million across the country. Mercy Medical Airlift is only one example of the many charitable organizations that rely on access to our aviation network, providing vital services to our community members in need.

    By declaring the month of August “General Aviation Appreciation Month,” Governor McDonnell has taken an important step in recognizing the importance of general aviation to our state. For Virginia, maintaining a strong, secure and robust air transportation system should be an important part of any efforts to stimulate and protect our local and national economy. This proclamation shows just how big of a part general aviation plays towards such a goal.

    Hank Rempe

    Hank Rempe is the manager of Hanover County and Lake Anna Airports, and the secretary of the Virginia Airports Operators Council. He is also a member of the Alliance for Aviation Across America.

    Date: 2011-10-06