October 15, 2012

A former president of the Rapid City, SD airport board vigorously defended general aviation (GA), including business aviation, in a column in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader newspaper.

“The truth is that every day, aircraft and airports across our state are used to carry out emergency medical, firefighting and disaster relief operations,” Bert Corwin wrote in his column, which appeared in the newspaper Sept. 30. “Throughout our state and the nation as a whole, the adaptability of GA makes it an excellent resource to organizations that perform critical public-safety functions.”

In the column, Corwin pointed to valuable Rapid City-area services provided by the Civil Air Patrol and a National Guard detachment, adding that the U.S. Forest Service monitors and responds to wildfires across five states from its slurry-tanker base at the Rapid City Regional Airport.

“In the same way that GA allows communities to connect to critical services, (it) helps local businesses… to expand to new markets, serve customers and support local jobs,” wrote Corwin. He cited Fugro Horizons, a Rapid City-based aerial photography and mapping company that uses state-of-the-art optical sensing technology to provide geospatial information. Fugro serves U.S. national security agencies, state and regional land use planners, and private companies with geo-referenced maps for site-selection studies, corridor mapping, right-of-way alignments and customized GIS applications. The company recently expanded its fleet to 12 airplanes and nine mission crews.

“In fact, 85 percent of the companies that own and operate GA aircraft are small- to mid-sized businesses, which use these aircraft to visit multiple locations in a single day, travel to locations with limited access to commercial aviation and carry tools and demonstration materials that could not be transported commercially,” Corwin wrote. “All told, in South Dakota, the GA industry accounts for $303 million of economic activity annually and the aerospace and aviation sectors support 1,846 jobs.”

Corwin also decried the Obama administration’s proposed $100-per-flight user fee for business jets, telling readers it would devastate the industry, and praised South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard for recognizing the importance of GA to the state.

In a May letter to Obama, Daugaard added his voice to those of more than 100 mayors and city managers from across the country opposing the user fee. Daugaard wrote, “The small businesses, farmers, charitable organizations and first responders who count on GA and utilize the airports which support it represent a strategically vital resource for our state. For this reason, I strongly oppose the imposition of the ‘user fee’ taxes on GA operators in any form.”