Michigan is known for manufacturing with a total annual output of over $90 billion. Here in Clare, we owe the founding of our airport to manufacturing.
For states like ours, located in the heart of the rust belt, general aviation is a critical tool for supporting manufacturers. There are over 11,000 manufacturing firms here in Michigan, and our network of 211 general aviation airports is here to support them. Years ago, one auto parts manufacturer built the grass strip that would become our local airport because they needed a fast and direct means to deliver parts to Detroit. Today, it continues and our airport continues to support industries and manufacturing across our region.
General aviation and local airports help businesses to transfer people and parts faster, and more directly, than cars, railways, or commercial airlines so they can keep to a tight schedule to meet their set production goals. Just a few months ago, for example, a manufacturer just west of Clare had a machine breakdown. To avoid any stoppages in work, they flew a mechanic in from southern Ohio. Without general aviation, the mechanic would have driven at least five hours just to make it to the site. Thanks to general aviation and the local airport, the company flew the mechanic in, fixed the machine and had him back home before the end of the day.
The public benefits of general aviation are almost endless. Law enforcement uses general aviation to help support their officers on the ground.
There is a functional advantage to having eyes in the sky that can augment the work occurring on the ground.
General aviation helps law enforcement cover a large area in a short time and see into blind spots, increasing officer safety.
Within the medical field, general aviation is utilized from everything from transferring patients from one location to another to flying specialized doctors out to underserved communities. Here at the Clare Municipal Airport, I personally patrol the nearby natural gas pipeline.
I fly the length of the underground pipeline and keep an eye out for any discolored grass, which indicates a leak, or any work crews placing any heavy equipment or materials on the ground above the pipeline, which could cause a rupture.
General aviation airports serve an essential role in the growth of communities across America. As we continue to talk about the importance of infrastructure, our roads, bridges and commercial airports, let’s not forget the importance of our smaller airports as well.
About the author: Gary Todd is the manager of the Clare Municipal Airport