By: Marshall Eichfeld
In 2011, the state of Ohio experienced record rainfall, saturating the ground and jeopardizing the state’s crops since farmers were unable to operate heavy machinery to apply fertilizers and crop-protection products without damaging the land and crops. In this case, many area farmers turned to aircraft and aerial applicators to help save crop yields throughout Ohio. And 2011 actually ended up being the third-most plentiful yield (per acre) of corn in Ohio history.
While this may seem to be a rare story, the truth is that the versatility of small aircraft, also referred to as general aviation, makes them a crucial tool for businesses and farms alike across Ohio in many different circumstances. While these aircraft are often unseen to the general public, the fact is that they are a crucial tool used by law enforcement, emergency medical response, firefighting and prevention, charitable efforts, natural disaster recovery, education, blood and organ transport, fish and wildlife management, search and rescue, power-line and pipeline maintenance, and nearly every service to communities conceivable.
The same versatility that makes small aircraft such a great resource for public safety also applies in the business world. In fact, a number of studies have shown that businesses that utilize general aviation do better than those that do not. At Neil Armstrong Airport in Wapakoneta, manufacturers in the area, including Honda of Ohio and Crown Equipment Corp., rely on the airport for “just-in-time” delivery of components. NASCAR teams and vendors use the airport for access to nearby Eldora Speedway, home of the first NASCAR dirt track race in 43 years this July. Overall, general aviation in Ohio accounts for $5.5 billion in economic activity every year and supports 17,000 jobs.
Businesses of all sizes use general aviation. Most workers who travel by general aviation are engineers or technicians, sales personnel or middle managers, traveling between branches and visiting with new customers or suppliers. General aviation allows for multiple stops in a single day, especially in rural areas where access to commercial flights is limited. In fact, at Cuyahoga County Airport in Richmond Heights, Nextant Aerospace manufactures low-cost business aircraft and Flight Options manages fractional ownership of business aircraft. Both companies make general aviation accessible to smaller businesses at lower costs and provide well-paying jobs within the community.
Unfortunately, many still do not understand the crucial importance of these aircraft and the airports they use for businesses and communities across our state. Some in Washington, D.C., seek to make the businesses and groups that use these aircraft pay additional “user fee” taxes, on top of existing fuel and sales taxes, which would unfortunately put a target on many of our area’s smallest businesses and farms, as well as medical providers, flight instructors and many others who carry out critical services for our communities.
Fortunately, many of our local leaders understand the value of general aviation and its crucial importance to our communities. Gov. John Kasich declared last December to be General Aviation Appreciation Month, the third proclamation of its kind in three years, and 15 Ohio mayors have joined other local officials across the country in signing a petition to President Barack Obama urging the administration to recognize the value of general aviation and avoid destructive new types of taxes. While it may be a tough budgetary environment in Washington, let’s make sure we remind our local leaders to stand up for the businesses and resources that make a huge difference to our residents every day.
Marshall Eichfeld is the president of the Ohio Aviation Association, office director at Delta Airport Consultants, a registered professional engineer and a member of the Alliance for Aviation Across America.