Lancaster County Airport asset to the community

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Doug Barnes

When many of our South Carolina citizens think about their local airport, they may think it is the equivalent of an aerial yacht club, operating for the benefit of a few private pilots.
While it is true that local airports provide a base for private and recreational pilots, airports offer so much more. Much of the activity you see around it is business-related.
For example, a local plant owner may be flying his or her employees to a business meeting. They are able to take off on their own schedule. When their meeting is over, they fly back from the local airport. They fly direct with no connecting flights, which helps them stay on schedule.
In other words, they are using the local airport to generate economic activity and at the same time enhance their own productivity by using general aviation airplanes.
Local airports also serve as bases for law enforcement, medical and government activity, as well as supporting travel and tourism activities. Airport users buy fuel, pay hangar rent, spend money for maintenance of their airplanes and pay significant property tax to their respective counties. Airports make major contributions to the economic activity in the counties and cities where they are located.
When you see a construction project at the airport, please keep in mind that most airport improvement grants, administered by the Federal Aviation Administration (FFA) require the local government to only contribute 5 percent of the project costs. The State Aeronautics Commission contributes another 5 percent, with the FAA responsible for the remaining 90 percent of the costs.
For example, Lancaster’s recent runway overlay was a $3 million project with funding broken down using this formula.
And, the revenue for airport development projects is generated by taxes on aviation fuel, ticket taxes and freight taxes. In short, the Aviation Trust Fund, which supports aviation development projects, is funded by aviation revenue. The local economy is stimulated with minimal investments by local and state government.
Suffice it to say, our local airport is a serious driver in our community. But if you really want to find out what is going on at our airport, I recommend you call Lancaster County Airport and arrange for an airport tour. Ask to have a certified flight instructor take you on an introductory flight where you can actually fly the airplane and see for yourself how flying a small airplane can result in the unusual combination of enhancing your productivity, while at the same time providing you with pure unadulterated fun.
Where else but our local airport can you get that kind of combination?

Doug Barnes is a member of the Lancaster County Airport Commission and also an instrument-rated pilot, aircraft owner and volunteer pilot with Angel Flight and EAA’s Young Eagle program.