As an attorney in Jefferson City with clients across the country, I spend a lot of time traveling. Jefferson City is our state capital, a river city, and my home—but one thing it lacks is easy access to commercial air service. However, there are other ways to get around, and for me and many others in our community, general aviation provides a lifeline and opens up a world of possibilities.
My work requires meeting face-to-face and building strong, trusting relationships with clients. These relationships are incredibly important when I’m working on sensitive and complicated cases. But I used to lose hours in transit, driving to far-off airports and waiting around for connecting flights. While Columbia Regional Airport offers some perks, connecting flights can be challenging and create delays. In 2007, I spent about four months in total away from home, which was very hard for me and my family. A large portion of my time away was travel time and additional overnights due to commercial airline schedules.
When I learned to fly in 2008, I quickly realized how much time using my own small plane could save. I can fly directly from the local airport seven minutes from where I live to thousands of small airports across the country – from point A to point B without interruption or delay. I can meet clients face to face on their schedule and my own, not the airlines, making my business travel much more productive. Clients love the accessibility and it gives my law firm a competitive edge. The best part is that I don’t miss my kids’ activities and enjoy a ton more time at home. Work life balance at its best.
For my business and many others in the state and across the country, general aviation helps businesses to increase productivity and stay competitive. In Missouri alone, general aviation airports contribute an economic impact of over $857 million and support nearly 7,500 jobs. In addition to economic impacts, general aviation provides a lifeline to communities by facilitating services like firefighting, disaster relief, and, importantly, medical care.
I have seen firsthand how important general aviation can be for medical care—I volunteer for Angel Flight Central, an organization that helps people obtain necessary medical care by flying them at no cost. People in rural areas have the same medical needs as people in major cities, but in many cases they have less access to care. In addition, it can be hard for people who need cancer treatment or other types of ongoing care to pay for recurring travel to reach their doctors and hospitals, and they depend on charitable general aviation.
Unfortunately, there are many people who still do not realize what an important lifeline these airports and aircraft are to local businesses and smaller communities. For example, some on Capitol Hill are pushing to privatize our air traffic control system, which while it may sound good, means concentrating power, control, and likely access and funding around the biggest, commercial airports, not the ones that my law firm and many other small businesses and critical service providers use. Right now its Congress that ensures that our airports and air transportation system remain a public benefit.
Let’s keep it that way, and make sure we continue to support the local airports and aircraft that help to make our small businesses the economic backbone and engine for our economy and country.
Chip Gentry is an attorney in Jefferson City and a member of the Alliance for Aviation across America.