The value of airports, personal aviation


We all know that small airports are being threatened with closure across the country. This has been an increasing concern ever since Transport Canada started getting out of the airport business in the early 1990’s.

Threats to privately owned aerodromes generally stem from neighbours who don’t like airplanes and misguided municipal administrator who think they have jurisdiction where they don’t. A significant part of COPA’s Special Action Fund is devoted to keeping these airstrips open.

Threats to publicly owned aerodromes and airports stem from an entirely different source. These threats are almost always cost based. Many municipalities have inherited an airport from either Transport Canada or their Provincial government. After operating the airport for a few years the municipality discovers there really is a cost involved with, apparently, little or no offsetting revenue.

The first reaction to this realization is to levy a myriad of fees on the users of the airport. Naturally the usage drops off and the expected income is never achieved (some large international airports excepted). The next step in the municipal planning process is to look for a developer willing to turn the airport land into a construction project and get the municipality out from under what they think is a cash drain.

To combat this misunderstanding for many years COPA has been encouraging municipalities and provinces to undertake economic impact studies to assess the true value of their airports. COPA produced "Community Airport" brochure which has received wide circulation and helps to get this message across. We’ve now seen a number of airport economic impact studies conducted (You can see these studies and the brochure on our website).

Without exception these studies have been eye-openers for the local authorities and in some cases have produced astounding reactions when they discover the large economic benefit their municipality derives from their airport. There are many cases in the last few years where these studies have not only saved airports but caused municipalities to get serious about supporting and developing their airports.

But what about general aviation as a whole across the country? Other than the studies mentioned above there are no comprehensive statistics on the economic benefits of GA. In particular there is nothing available on the economic benefits of Personal Aviation. How much do we spend to fly our aircraft? How much do we spend on maintenance, hangar rent, supplies, fuel? How much do we pay in taxes and fees? How many jobs are generated by our flying?

COPA has been working to convince Transport Canada that we need a GA policy in this country. We need to determine how important it is to Canadians and the government needs to set a policy reflecting the value of this mode of transportation.

Some progress is being made. Transport Canada does agree that data must to be gathered in order to build an economic footprint of GA and personal aviation. They have committed resources to this task and a number of meetings have taken place, in which COPA is involved, to develop a methodology.

I am currently involved in a pilot project to assess the effectiveness of the proposed process. This is not something we should shy away from. We must be part of this data gathering process if we are to ensure our future.

You will be hearing more details about this project in the near future and I hope you will participate fully. Making politicians, bureaucrats, and Canadian citizens aware of the value of GA and Personal Aviation is one of the most important things we can do to ensure the continuation of our freedom to fly in this country.

Meanwhile keep your prop spinning.