Anyone who has driven through the Upper Midwest can tell you how much time it can take to get from one region of the state to the other. My family’s business, Noteboom Implement, serves local farmers as an accessible provider of John Deere equipment, which means I am continuously traveling between our four locations in Corsica, Chamberlain, Parkston and Platte, along with Sioux Falls where many of the business services that I rely on are located. I need versatile transportation that can adapt to a changing schedule and transport me and the tools and staff I need long distances in a quick and efficient manner. Fortunately, all four locations are close to community airports, allowing me to reach all of them in a single day with my own airplane – something that would be impossible by car.
Noteboom Implement is certainly not the only company in South Dakota that uses general aviation on a regular basis. Many small businesses throughout the state like my own depend on general aviation to increase efficiency, productivity, and in many cases, help with specialized functions that would not otherwise be possible, such as crop protection and surveying, and maintaining power lines and pipelines. In addition, many tour companies around Mount Rushmore use general aviation for aerial tours. All told, across our state, the general aviation industry has an economic impact of $303 million each year.
Community airports and general aviation are also important to the safety and security of South Dakota’s citizens. Last year, aircraft played a critical role in containing the fire at Myrtle Beach and the Longhorn Complex. In both cases, difficult conditions made certain areas impossible to be reached by firefighters on the ground, and smoke jumpers were necessary in controlling the North Horse fire because of its location amongst extremely challenging terrain. Officials predict another busy fire season which will surely demand the general aviation services such as helicopters, smoke jumpers and tankers. In addition, law enforcement, emergency medical responders, search and rescue teams, nonprofit organizations, and a host of other groups working for the greater good rely on general aviation every day.
While the benefits of general aviation are great, unfortunately many outside of our state do not recognize the value of this important form of transportation, and have vilified those who operate and rely upon these aircraft – even going so far as to suggest new taxes and fees at a time when many who operate these aircraft are already struggling to recover from the economic downturn.
Thankfully, South Dakota’s governor, Dennis Daugaard, has recognized these benefits of general aviation to businesses and the greater South Dakota community. By recently issuing a proclamation declaring June, “General Aviation Appreciation Month,” Daugaard has acknowledged the importance of the airports and general aviation to our state. In addition, we are grateful that Sen. John Thune and Congresswoman Kristi Noem are members of the General Aviation Caucus, and that many of our local leaders such as Mayor Dave McGirr of Huron, Mayor Dave Hahn of Wall, Mayor John Hart of Philip and Mayor Glen Haines of Faith have joined Mayors across the country in speaking out in favor of this important form of transportation, particularly for rural regions of our country. Let’s hope that others at the national level recognize the crucial importance of general aviation and help to protect this lifeline to communities throughout our state and country.
Dan Noteboom is the President of Noteboom Implement, a board member of the Corsica Development Corporation, and a member of the Alliance for Aviation Across America.