October 5, 2012

A Sept. 29 column in The Oklahoman newspaper declared that general aviation (GA) aircraft and airports are “crucial connectors for business and industries”, and decried the proposed $100-per-flight “user fee” tax on GA aircraft used by small businesses, farms, nonprofits and communities that rely on these aircraft.

“Airplanes aren’t the first thing we generally think about when we consider a local economy,” wrote Enid (Oklahoma) Regional Development Alliance Executive Director Brent Kisling. “Think again: The network of airplanes and airports in Oklahoma are crucial connectors for businesses and industries, helping support area jobs and aiding industries as they expand.”

Oklahoma has 139 public-use community airports.

In the editorial, Kisling cited the vital role of the local Enid airport in the acquisition and multi-million dollar expansion of a major drilling supply company in Enid area. Noting that the expansion is expected to double employment at the company, he said, “Travel on small aircraft (also known as GA) through Enid Woodring Regional Airport was crucial to facilitating this acquisition and the ultimate expansion.”

He said other businesses also depend on the local airport for continued profitability, and cited seven additional leading Enid-area companies to demonstrate that the airport is “a prime example of how general aviation and local airports support, sustain and encourage economic activity for communities.”

The city of Enid, population 47,000, and surrounding Garfield County make up the retail, medical, entertainment and educational hub of Northwest Oklahoma. Although its airport has no major airline service, accessibility by GA was one of the factors that led a recent major Labor Quality Index study to list Enid as the third best place in the nation to bring a new industry. The nearest city with commercial airline service is Oklahoma City, 85 miles to the south-southeast.

“Across the state, the GA industry has an economic impact of $1.2 billion,” continued Kisling in his editorial. “The aviation and aerospace sectors employ more than 144,000 workers in Oklahoma. Community airports and general aviation also play a vital role in public safety. Law enforcement, firefighters, emergency medical responders, search-and-rescue teams, nonprofit organizations and natural disaster relief crews all rely on general aviation regularly.”

He also thanked Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin for her support of local airports and GA business flying. This year, she declared August 2012 as Aviation and Aerospace Appreciation Month in the state and last year wrote a personal letter to President Obama opposing the administration’s proposed $100-per-flight “user fee” tax on business jets.