By Howard Deevers

Several times per year I read an article about a group of volunteer pilots who have pitched in and saved their local airport. The story is usually about the same, where local people that don't fly, have other interests and want to close the airport. Or, the “old” airport is just falling apart from lack of maintenance, and the pilots did the work required to make it usable. These are great stories and show how pilots, or other interested groups, can come together to bring back to life something that is near and dear to them.

the importance of airports meigs field chicago

We need airports. If we are going to fly, we need a place to go from, a place to go to, and a place to store our aircraft. Anyone that has purchased an airplane in the last 10 years has found out how hard it is to find hangar space just about anywhere in the country. Even if there is no hangar space available, we still need a place to tie the plane down.

Aviation is just a little over 100 years old. When it started, there were NO airports. As aviation grew, so did the number of airports. A couple of World Wars also accelerated the building of airports for training and base uses. Many of those WWII airports were deeded to the local communities after the government no longer needed them and some of them went on to become quite valuable assets to those communities. Others, in more remote locations, became abandoned, and eventually just lost to nature.

Politics gets into the picture, also. The most famous is Meigs Field in Chicago. Meigs, located right on the shores of Lake Michigan and so convenient to downtown Chicago, was a busy airport and very useful to aviation and the community of Chicago. The airport provided easy access for business and pleasure travelers to Chicago. For some reason, the mayor did not like the airport and wanted to close it to make a park in that location. How much money does a park generate for a city? Defying all legal attempts to keep the airport open, the mayor finally destroyed the airport under the cover of night. Many articles have been written about Meigs, and other similar airports that have disappeared.

Not until they are really gone, do pilots know how much they will miss their airport.

Not everyone has flown to Chicago, but a lot of pilots did. And it was on the way to Oshkosh or back for many. But for doing business in downtown Chicago, the convenience could not be beat.

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Not all airports have such a significant location. The APA & RAF have volunteered to restore such places as Grapevine (88AZ) on the shores of Roosevelt Lake, and other remote airports that many pilots will never fly into, but for those pilots who do use these airports, they have more value than just a runway in a remote location. This and other newly re-opened backcountry airstrips only exist because of a few aviators sacrificing their personal time and donations.

Public use airports are usually constructed and operated by the local governments. In the early days of aviation, airports were nothing more than an open field where a bi-wing plane could land and take off. Pilots would have to look for a suitable place and land there.

World War I spurred the development of airports almost everywhere in the world. The US lagged behind Europe because the US entered the war much later. After the war, US air mail and passenger service began to develop, but few suitable airports were available.

The Second World War spurred the advance in aviation technology and the need for more airports. The government built many training fields all over the country, and communities developed airports for transportation. After the end of WWII the Government donated many of the airports that were not retained as military bases to the local governments. Many are still in operation today.

the importance of airports runway

Aviators and airports are forever united. The aviators need a place to go, and the airports will not survive without aircraft use. One hundred years ago, airports were so rare that they were not regulated at all. Now, airports are so regulated that even the paint used for markings requires a committee to plan, purchase, and place on the runways. And the security of public use airports changed greatly after the attacks of 9/11. But we are still here, still working together, and still trying to make things better all the time.

Your ARIZONA PILOTS ASSOCIATION sponsors many free safety seminars at local airports throughout the State. Look for a seminar at an airport near you, and don't forget to “Bring your Wing Man.”


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