September 11, 2012

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam declared September as Aviation Month in the Volunteer State, encouraging all Tennesseans to join him in recognizing the importance of aviation.

Then-Gov. Phil Bredesen issued a similar proclamation in 2010, and both declarations echo many of the themes of the No Plane No Gain advocacy campaign launched in early 2009 by NBAA and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.

Review the Tennessee proclamation (131KB, PDF)

“General aviation (GA) overall contributes $2.57 billion or $431 per capita to Tennessee’s economy, and many communities…depend heavily on GA and community airports for the continued flow of commerce, tourists and visitors to our state,” Haslam said in his proclamation.

The Volunteer State has 79 public-use airports, or about one public-use airport for every 81,000 citizens. In addition to the 79 public-use airports, Tennessee boasts two public-use glider ports and 246 private landing areas available to GA operators by prior permission.

The state’s largest airport is Memphis International (MEM), which has been dubbed “America’s Aerotropolis,” an airport-integrated region extending from the airport in clusters of airport-linked businesses and their associated residential complexes.

Carrying cargo is a large part of aviation in Tennessee, with MEM being the largest cargo airport in the world. Every night, some 150 cargo-only jets in familiar purple and red FedEx livery land there to deliver packages to the company’s main sorting center, the FedEx Super Hub. The jets take off again before 4 a.m. with packages sorted by the 11,000 FedEx sorting employees.

Many packages, though, are likely to complete their journey in the hold of much smaller GA airplanes. FedEx has a fleet of about 130 single-engine or twin-engine turboprop airplanes used to deliver packages to communities with GA airports. According to FedEx, those GA airplanes serve about 175 smaller airports throughout the U.S.

“I applaud Gov. Haslam’s recognition of the contribution of aviation to the state of Tennessee,” said Harry Houckes, NBAA Southeast regional representative. “His proclamation helps remind people how much value GA brings to local communities. Many times, business aircraft carrying cargo or business people operate out of sight of the general public, so the benefits are not immediately apparent.”

Early state aviation pioneer Phoebe Omlie, of western Tennessee, is credited with establishing 66 flight schools in 46 states in the buildup to World War II, including a school in Tuskegee, AL that would later train black men as pilots for the legendary Tuskegee Airmen group.

In addition to Tennessee, the list of states that have officially recognized GA’s value includes: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Maine, Missouri, Minnesota, Montana, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.