Who's Going to Provide Your Ground Facilities?

AirportUnquestionably, many people will want to use planes in the peace years to come who will not be able to afford planes of their own, or if they can buy planes, will have no air park or facility from which to operate them. Group or community cooperation may be the answer for such people.

One solution to both these problems is the formation of aviation clubs. A few individuals can organize a flying club and purchase one or more planes for the exclusive use of the members. In this way they can enjoy flying at a lower cost to all than if each bought his own plane and had to bear the initial cost and maintenance. Those persons who own planes or are thinking of buying planes for themselves, but who have no convenient airport, may form a club for the purchase of a suitable place to land. Usually a reasonably flat field 2,500 feet long by 400 feet wide can be located near any community. Grading and sodding can be done inexpensively and a hangar can be built for the use of all members. Upkeep costs would have to be met through dues and assessments and from the profits of the sale of gasoline and lubricating oil.

Those persons who want to fly but who do not want to spend a lot of money will find that they can rent planes from “Fly-Yourself” services or from flying clubs which will have several types of planes available. An added advantage of renting a plane is that, as you become a more expert pilot, you will be able to rent the next larger class of plane. You won’t find yourself, with a plane on your hands, wishing for a larger one. Operators with several planes for hire will find that they can make a good living where the competition is not too heavy.

Airports are necessary

As a motorboat needs a dock or place to anchor, so a plane needs an airport. Facilities for landing private planes in America are not yet built and private flying cannot succeed until there are ground spaces and proper landing facilities. At the present time only 3,000 airports are available for landing private planes, many of questionable usefulness because of poor location or because they are congested with commercial planes. Thousands more will be needed to serve the 16,752 communities in which the major population of the United States lives.

Both the aircraft industry and government agencies are urging communities to develop air parks for the exclusive use of nonscheduled or personal aircraft. These air parks are constructed with runways laid out in the shape of an X, T, L, or V. The cost of such projects has been estimated to lie somewhere between $25,000 and $500,000, depending upon the terrain, amount of drainage, soil preparation, and whether the runways are built of turf or hard-surfacing materials—such as asphalt or concrete.

RunwaysAir parks should be located conveniently for the traveler, businessman, and ordinary flyer. If possible, they should be near a terminal airport so that persons can park their planes and go aboard airliners for trips to distant points, just as you park your car at a railroad station and climb aboard a train today.

It’s a community job

The building of an air park is ordinarily a community project, undertaken as a public improvement just as city streets and parks are. Funds for the air park can come from the city treasury or be secured by public subscription. At the beginning the air park cannot even be considered as self-supporting. However, it should eventually pay for itself through taxes on the sale of gasoline and rentals from private enterprises located on the air-park grounds, such as hangars, repair shops, restaurants, and airplane salesrooms.

It cannot be expected to pay for itself as rapidly as did the public highway system, since it may be some time before private airplane traffic brings in as high revenue as automobile traffic does today. When the airplane begins to reach the utility value of the automobile, air parks will begin to pay for themselves.

Each community must determine whether or not it is justified in spending $25,000 or more of its citizens’ money for an air park. From the point of view of the community, there are a number of important advantages in having an air park. With lots of air parks scattered over the country, air-plane owners can travel and vacation and see the sights when-ever and wherever they happen to feel like going. An air park promotes commuting between cities. It offers to visitors, professional men, and businessmen a rapid way of coming and going. It may eventually become a valuable necessity to business activities and commerce.

If it is the only air facility in the community, it will provide a place for on-the-spot aviation education and a headquarters for ever-ready aerial ambulance service for emergencies. It may be expanded later to a full airport, connecting with national air routes. It will provide more jobs in the community both during its construction and afterward, broaden individual horizons, and stimulate greater community interest on the part of its citizens.

For Discussion

How can the utility value of personal airplanes be increased? Is the expenditure of public funds for air parks justifiable? Should the state or federal government provide funds for local air parks?