April 1, 2020

While the GA community, including business aviation, continues to step up and provide vital humanitarian support across the country during the COVID-19 outbreak, the pandemic has led to profound drops in traffic and revenue for the nation’s GA airports.

For example, sales of aviation gasoline and jet fuel are the lifeblood for small airports and FBOs, and fuel sales have dropped to just one-tenth of the typical amount at Gainesville Municipal Airport (GLE) in Texas.

Another example is Texas Gulf Coast Regional Airport (LBX), which reported that a major tenant is expected to decrease its fuel purchases by as much as 75% in the months ahead.

Okeechobee County Airport (OBE) in Florida reports its fuel sales “are close to zero,” while the manager of the Colville Municipal Airport (63S) in Washington state reported a “significant” drop in Jet-A and avgas sales.

Understandably, these declines in fuel sales are directly related, in most cases, to drops in traffic to these airports. Charter flights to Florida’s Fernandina Beach Airport (FHB) have dropped by approximately 80%, with fears that the recent statewide quarantine order of GA passengers from the New York tri-state area could “bring general aviation in southern Florida to a screeching halt.”

The closure of a popular skydiving business at Deland Municipal Airport (DED) contributed to a 90% drop in traffic to the central Florida facility, with the director of Crystal River Airport – Captain Tom Davis Field (CGC) along the Gulf Coast fearing airport revenues may drop by as much as 60% as closed businesses are unable to pay rent.

The loss of even a handful of flights per day carries a significant economic impact for many airports, including three in West Virginia: North Central West Virginia Airport (CKB), Raleigh County Memorial Airport (BKW) and Upshur County Regional Airport (W22).

Texarkana Regional Airport (TKX) in western Arkansas recently laid off five airport employees and projects a roughly $400,000 loss in operating revenue this year, which Airport Director Paul Mehrlich told the Texarkana Gazette amounts to an approximate 30% drop in the facility’s projected operating budget.

Smaller airports are also being impacted by COVID-19 diagnoses at ATC facilities. Such an incident recently led to the brief closure of the control tower at California’s John Wayne Airport (SNA). The FAA suspended tower operations at SNA on March 26 after a worker tested presumptive positive for the coronavirus. The change resulted in a maximum of 10 arrivals per hour at SNA, compared to as many as 28 during normal periods, though the SNA tower resumed normal operations March 28.

“Our air traffic system is resilient and flexible,” the FAA stated on March 27, according to the Orange County Register. “In some cases, this means transferring duties to adjacent facilities.”

For up-to-date information about coronavirus impacts on airports and aircraft operations, see NBAA’s Aircraft Operational Considerations With the Coronavirus resource.