The importance of our airports | News, Sports, Jobs
I was delighted to learn recently of the County Executive’s appointment of a new, highly experienced airport manager for Jamestown and Dunkirk airports. These airports are two gems of aeronautical infrastructure that we are fortunate to have and that we will need in the future.
I confess that I am not an indifferent observer. I was a plane “nuts” at least since the days when I was building model airplanes growing up. I saved up all the money I made on the farm as a kid to take flying lessons at Jamestown Airport (JHW). When I returned to the area in the early 1970s from Vietnam, the GI Bill allowed me to attend the VA approved training school at Dunkirk Airport (DKK) where I obtained a commercial qualification, FAA instrument and multi-engine aircraft. These two airports were, and are today, essential components of our region for anyone associated with aviation.
My first airplane flight was on an old DC-3 operated by Allegheny Airlines. I was 10 or 11 years old. My dad flew with me from Jamestown to Bradford, and my mom (who was late because she got lost) drove to Bradford airport and took us home. For many years scheduled airlines operated from Jamestown, the highlight being when Chautauqua Airlines operated from here as their home base.
Today, unfortunately, the combination of deregulation, TSA requirements, and convenient/cheaper alternatives has led the general public to travel to Buffalo or Erie for flights. It is unlikely that scheduled air service can be brought back to the airport again.
Nevertheless, aviation and its need are not going away. Planes need to be maintained, pilots need to be trained, charter companies need good airports to operate, businesses need a nearby airport to support their operations – and we in Chautauqua County have two nice well maintained facilities to support this.
There is another financial factor that helps when it comes to airports – and that is the fact that infrastructure improvements for JHW and DKK are eligible for 95% federal and state infrastructure support. Thus, we are not alone in keeping these facilities maintained and updated.
Another reality is that it would be almost impossible today to build or replace airports like the two we have. Cost, political/environmental objections and competition for open space – many factors – mean we have to maintain the airports we have today. Once gone, they never come back.
No one can predict the future, but I know of no prediction that does not envision the need for more aviation in our lives in the days to come. Jamestown and Dunkirk airports are only at the beginning of their long-term importance.
Kudos to the County Executive and County Legislature for recognizing this and providing the leadership to help make airports all they can be as a catalyst for growth and promoting business in our region.
Rolland Kidder is a resident of Stow.