Letter to the editor: Airport is worth savingI am concerned about the Silver Bay Mayor and city council’s announced goal to close the municipal airport in three to five years.
I am concerned about the Silver Bay Mayor and city council’s announced goal to close the municipal airport in three to five years. I am concerned not because the airport is named the Wayne Johnson airport but am concerned because I believe that this is a step backwards for this area. An airport is a vital link in this country’s transportation system. Without it, I firmly believe a city will never grow and prosper.
I have flown to virtually every airport in Minnesota as well as many in surrounding states and throughout the United States and Canada. I have observed first hand the value of an airport to a community. Those that maintained and expanded their airports were most successful in attracting tourists, business, and industry. One needs to only look to Two Harbors and Grand Marais.
When Two Harbors expanded its airport, permitting corporate planes to utilize it, the city attracted additional business and industry. Grand Marais, by expanding its airport, attracts larger aircraft carrying not only tourists but people who make substantial investments in the area.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation, through its Aeronautics Division, has repeatedly demonstrated the value of an airport to a community.
The cost to the city of operating the airport is a small amount of its total budget. Eighty to 90 percent of the improvements have been made through federal and state grants. The land for the airport was paid for by donations of plane owners, local businesses, and others interested in aviation.
The first hangar, valued at $80,000, was built by plane owners and volunteers and donated to the city. The second set of hangars was built with a state loan and repaid by rent from the hangars by plane owners. The material for the old administration building was donated by Reserve Mining Company and built by volunteers. The city has more than a $1 million dollar facility with nominal city investment.
It is true that the use of Silver Bay airport has declined during the national economic downturn, as has happened nationwide. Two Harbors has not had a drop, probably due to a manager in attendance that can monitor the daily use and make sure each flight is recorded as well as promote activity.
Silver Bay may not be getting an accurate report of use since the pilot’s sign-in book is in a locked building making it inconvenient for those flying into the airport. Transient planes have been seen parked at the airport but have not been recorded in the pilot’s register.
An airport, like any other enterprise, requires constant promotion to be successful. I respectfully urge the mayor and council to study the matter carefully, seek advice from the State Aeronautic Division, the Federal Aviation Administration, and others knowledgeable in aviation and in promoting business.
From Wayne G. Johnson, Silver Bay