Facts and Air Cover

Published: March 11, 2012 8:00AM
Today I received my first whisper of disapproval regarding a column. Back-channel whisper. Subtle. Local politician whisper to a mutual friend — “Tell Carl he had better tone it down.” Whisper back from Carl –“I print my email address in every column. Tell me yourself.”
I’m not one to miss an opportunity, so here goes, starting with background.

I served as one of the airport trustees from 1996 through 2006. An unprecedented opportunity existed then for the airport to leverage state and federal grants at only 5% matching funds. We did get some things done, but never did we have ungrudging support from our “funders” to go after all the money we needed to develop the airport according to the approved Master Plan, so CDI lost out year after year to lesser-priority airports with aggressive supporters.

Here are highlights of a few recent examples:
1. Fostoria, OH, 805 foot runway extension to 5005 feet. $99,933 funds from city, $250,000 from local industry, $308,579 balance by FAA. County population 56,152, city pop. 13,951. (Our local industry exceeds theirs and our justification to the FAA was stronger. Theirs got done. 14 planes on field, 13 piston and 1 jet.)
2. Neil Armstrong Airport, Wapakoneta, OH. Needed 500 foot extension to save/attract their industrial clients. County committed to 10% of whatever it took. Project cost $2,124,442; their share = $212,444; local industry put up $200,000, the FAA happily stepped in for the balance. Combined matching funds were 19.4%. (Armstrong’s county of Auglaize has 45,949 population, and the city of Wapakoneta 9,474. They now have 23 airplanes on field, 16 of which are single-engine piston, 3 multi-engine piston and 4 jet aircraft. Same number of planes as ours, different mix.
3. Richard Downing Airport, Coshocton County. New 700 foot runway extension, plus expanded parking apron, plus new terminal building. County put up approximately 20-30% matching funds. Airport now has 5,000 foot runway and 23 planes on field (same as ours). (County population is only 36,901, city pop. 11,682. This airport has less use than CDI and less industry, but leveraged millions out of the FAA ahead of CDI by putting dollars where words normally come out.)
4. Holmes County Airport, Holmes County, OH. County population 42,306, largest village is Millersburg, pop. 3326. Principal industry is tourism. Current runway length is 3,498 feet. They have just begun the bidding of a $3,200,000 runway improvement project. Airplanes on field 19. (This is a bizarre example! They are abandoning the existing runway and constructing one at a different angle of 4,500 feet, not including 250 foot of overrun at each end, a gimmick to get them to a usable 5,000 feet. It appears that the county stepped up for $350, 528, a percentage match of 9.3%.)

All of the examples are uncontrolled airports similar in size to CDI. Justification per FAA criteria favored CDI except for one factor — amount of “skin” offered to be in the game. FAA favors skin.

Facts are pesky things. Here’s the deal — I’ll tell ’em, you interpret ’em. It is a fact that our county and city have stepped up multiple times with minimum matching funds for airport improvements preparing for the needed extension (thank you). The progress has been incremental, dependent on funding, rather than taking a big bite all at once. What is left is the last bite.

The only solace that I can offer the politicians is that my feedback indicates support for that last bite. In aviation we’d call that air cover. What’s it called in politics?


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